My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Maupin’s Tales of the City manages to bring to relief some far out characters and manages to make them wholly believable because the world he creates for them is so detailed. I wasn’t alive in the 70s, so I don’t really know what it was like, but the world of 28 Barbary Lane is so vivid, this is what I imagine 1970s San Francisco to have been like.
As the characters of Tales of the City navigate San Francisco society they seem to find themselves like fish out of water, but they never give up trying to find their places, find love and happiness. None of the characters is perfect. They all have their own flaws and quirks. They are characters to continue to follow through the rest of the series.
The first book of the series deals with issues like gay and lesbian issues, abortion, spirituality, drugs, suicide, alcoholism and trying to make it in the big city. Maupin handles them with tact and without being heavy handed or moralizing. The characters just do the best that they can.
The biggest drawback is that many of the pop culture references are a bit dated and obscure for younger audiences. Tales of the City is one of the most pop-culture filled novels that I have read. Many of the references were a bit lost on me personally, but it didn’t get in the way of the whole vivid world that Maupin creates.
Bottom line: Tales of the City is an engrossing world of pop-culture nostalgia and vivid groovy characters. It’s well worth reading.