Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Logical Famly: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin (2017)

When I was a little baby homosexual, newly out (or nearly newly out at least) of the closet, I read Tales of the City.  I may have even read the next book in the series.    I don’t remember all that much about it, to be completely honest (this was 25 years ago).  It was during a reading time in my life when I wanted to read books by and about gay and lesbian authors.  I checked it out from the public library, because I couldn’t afford to buy books.  And I remember the plot twist about Anna Madrigal (and wasn’t her name an anagram?).  I don’t remember disliking the book(s).

“My youth would be.... the slow decay of cherished myths—about politics and race, about love itself—until nothing was left but compost from which something authentic could finally begin to grow,” he writes, in one of the more beautiful passages in the book.  This was particularly true for him.  His southern upbringing was filled with the casual homophobia and intended or unintended cruelties that many gay men endured - and still do.  When Maupin was a young adult, being gay was a crime, and a far more shameful thing than the freer times of today.  It’s still not easy to grow up a gay man, but doors have opened. This is in large part due to the deeds of men like Maupin, who were pioneers and fighters in battles for equality, some of which have now been won.

Maupin’s memoir was mostly a good read - I say mostly because 1) I don’t tend to even like memoirs (This was for my book club) and 2) I thought the first half of the book was more powerful and interesting than the second half.  He’s a genial name dropper but in the best kind of way.  No names were redacted or changed, and Maupin’s fame meant he was friends with quite a few people.  Rock Hudson! Christopher Isherwood!  He also brushed up against a whole box of 20th century gay icons or anti-gay villains.  Harvey Milk!  Jesse Helms (he worked for him as a young man)!

San Francisco was the kind of gay Mecca that no longe exists, and Maupin writes lovingly of living there.  He also writes about that idea of young adult creating their own families, something I think many gays of a certain age run up against.  “Sooner or later, though, no matter where in the world we live, we must join the diaspora, venturing beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense for us. We have to, if we are to live without squandering our lives.”  Maupin was lucky; too many of us have trouble finding this, and being without a biological family in close proximity can be lonely.

Logical Family: A MemoirLogical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maupin’s memoir was a pretty good read; I thought the first half of this was better than the second. Maupin, being who he is, rubbed elbows or at least brushed up against quite a few equally or more famous people in his lifetime, and he’s not afraid to genially drop their names. Rock Hudson! Christopher Isherwood! Laura Linney! It made the book fun, and while there is definitely a feeling of bragging going on - isn’t that what memoirs are for? To brag and air some dirty laundry. Maupin does both, and fun was had by all.

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