Book review: Logical Family
Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin, published on 10 March 2017 by Harper Collins: R291.00
This is the long-awaited ‘real story’ of the much-loved Tales of the City author, Armistead Maupin. Perhaps best known for his much-lauded and much-copied coming-out letter ‘Letter to Mama’, Maupin’s warm, witty and inclusive style has helped several generations of queer folk come out and find their ‘logical family’, which may not always be – and frequently isn’t – their biological one.
Armistead Maupin appears to be, loosely, Michael Tolliver of the Tales of the City series, although Maupin has confessed more broadly that “I’ve always been all of the characters in one way or another.”Logical Family confirms this, plotting his life path from a conservative, naval, Southern background, through to San Francisco where he found himself and his ‘logical family’.
“Sooner or later, we have to venture beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense for us,” he writes. “We have to, if we are to live without squandering our lives.” In finding that life, he faced homophobia and the HIV pandemic, which hit hardest and earliest at the US gay community. He confronted both head on, controversially outing Rock Hudson, who he knew and who later died of AIDS, in the process. His activism is a matter of record but he is still best known for his novels, including two outside the Tales series, Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener, the latter of which was made into a movie starring Robin Williams.
So this, finally, is the official author-penned tale behind the Tales that has, in its short, twenty-chapter format, much the same accessibility, wit and pathos (clichéd but absolutely true) of his fiction. It is a crucial companion to his fiction work and will delight – and, occasionally, reduce to tears – anyone who has read any of the Tales series, which first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976.
It’s an important book because Maupin is a critical figure in the LGBTI literary world and, I would hope, in the literary world as a whole. Comparisons with Dickens are frequent and fair, though Maupin trumps him on camp hands down.