Wednesday, December 08, 2010


I've ventured back to Barbary Lane to resume reading the "Tales of the City" series by Armistead Maupin. "Babycakes" is the fourth novel in the six book series which takes place a little while after the third novel in the early eighties. From Goodreads:

"When an ordinary househusband and his ambitious wife decide to start a family, they discover there's more to making a baby then meets the eye. Help arrives in the form of a grieving gay neighbor, a visiting monarch, and the dashing young lieutenant who defects from her yacht. Bittersweet and profoundly affecting, Babycakes was the first work of fiction to acknowledge the arrival of AIDS."

Potential spoilers abound. It was a nice reunion to go back to the Tales series. I was a little put off earlier this year reading the first three novels in the series very close to each other. The stories are completely over the top in regards to the circumstances our heroes find themselves in, though I will say that "Babycakes" does tone it down just a bit. Overlooking some of the wild storylines, it's hard not to really love these stories because of all the endearing characters, especially, for me, Michael Tolliver.

What can be interesting about reading these novels today is to have a look at San Franscisco and America in the early to mid 1980's. This series was the first to mention the AIDS epidemic by that name before any other publication. Obviously there was still much to learn about the virus at this time as the novel refers to AIDS as a "gay disease" and primarily centralized in northern California. Also in reference to AIDS, I found Jon's death from complications of the virus to be a little unsettling since it happened between the third and fourth installments of the series. After getting through the complete fourth story I now see how this may have been a better choice, where experiences of his death could be told through other characters without it bogging down the story in what could only be a very unhappy tale.

Though the lives and their turns can be over the top at times, kudos to Maupin for creating such brilliant characters that I really enjoy and care about. Easy and endearing books that I wholeheartedly recommend.

"There is something profoundly tragic - no, not tragic, just pathetic - about a thirty-eight-year-old woman who still built bookshelves out of bricks and planks." - Mona

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