Book 261: Significant Others (Tales of the City #5) – Armistead Maupin

Maupin, Armistead - Significant Others (Tales of the City #4)Coming back to Maupin’s San Francisco is like going home after a really long vacation. There’s something comforting and something genuinely nice about being back on Barbary Lane. (See the first quote under Additional Quotes).

I can’t believe it’s been almost three years since I binge read Tales of the CityMore Tales of the CityFurther Tales of the City and Babycakes. And like everyone else who has ever read a single one of The Tales of the city books, I’m finally taking the time to catch up on the series, which has spanned five decades so that I can read the final (I’m assuming) novel in the series The Days of Anna Madrigal released at the beginning of 2014. I won’t binge read them, but they’re such quick reads I plan to read them all this year.

What’s great about Maupin’s novels is that when one group leaves the city, multiple groups leave the city. It’s like the entire population goes on vacation with each other and I love it! Maupin set this novel in the great redwoods of California and even though there are minimal interactions between groups it never fails that there is some sort of interaction between the groups.

When I started Significant Others I wasn’t very impressed, I forgot how depressing the ending of Babycakes was and I forgot when Maupin wrote the novels and what was going on in the world. When I took a moment to think about all of this and put things back into perspective I realized that it wasn’t as depressing as I thought it was and that it was actually quite light, given the subject matter, and incredibly humorous as all his works are.

The two things that struck me most about this novel were Maupin’s writing about women’s space and the impact of AIDS on the non-LGBT community. The descriptions and interactions in and around Wimminwood, a female only music and arts festival, were well written and fascinating. Showing the fallibility of bureaucracy and governing regardless of who is doing it was hilarious. Throw in Wimminwood and the juxtaposition with the all male Bohemian Club and the similarities/differences only heightened the similarities of these communities/communal locations.

Similar to Dallas Buyers Club I found the portion dealing with whether or not a heterosexual(flexible) character had AIDS unique in LGBT writing. And considering this is mid-1980s it’s even more groundbreaking. Maupin acknowledged the impact of AIDS on the LGBT community well before any of the governments acknowledged it and then to take it further and include heterosexuals and intravenous drug users is even more cutting edge. I’m not sure where the next few novels will go but it will most definitely be interesting!

Recommendation: Definitely check out this series. My earlier reviews, and this one, don’t really give it justice. It’s a fascinating snapshot of San Francisco and it’s history within the decades Maupin wrote.

Opening Line: “Brian’s internal clock almost always woke him at four fifty-six, giving him four whole minutes to luxuriate in the naked human body next to him.”

Closing Line: “The effect was too perfect to spoil, so she slipped under the sheets without a word and sat there remembering, waiting for the tango to end.” (Whited out.)

Additional Quoted from Significant Others
“There was beauty here and conspicuous bravery and civilized straight people who were doing their best to help. It was also his home, when all was said and done.” He loved this place with a deep and unreasoning passion; the choice was no longer his.” (23)

“‘That’s all anybody wants isn’t it? That feeling of being safe with somebody?’ Hideously embarrassed, he looked at Brian, then at Thack, and dropped the stick into the fire.” (108)

“All of life is maintenance, for heaven’s sake. That’s the pleasant part. Taking care of things.” (192)


5 thoughts on “Book 261: Significant Others (Tales of the City #5) – Armistead Maupin”

    1. Definitely check them out. They’re a bit time specific, but incredibly enjoyable. I love how quick they are to read as they were serialized in one of the newspapers and he he was able to incorporate current events


  1. I didn’t read this review in detail because…


    I read the first two in about two days, and oh my goodness, I love them so much. They are SO GREAT. Michael and Mrs. Madrigal are my favorite characters so far. I can’t wait to read the next one–it was all I could do not to go on a massive spending spree on Amazon and ORDER THEM ALL AT ONCE.

    I’ll have to give you a better comment about your review when I’ve gotten that far in the series.


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