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Book Review: Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin


Drew Payne

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For so many of us, Armistead Maupin is known for the Tales of the City series of books. Though set in San Francisco, these books chronicled so many of the changing events of the seventies and eighties in such a personal way.

Logical Family is Maupin’s memoir, starting with his birth in very conservative 1940s/1950s North Carolina up to 1970s San Francisco when he first started publishing Tales of the City as a serial in a newspaper. This is an amazing and complicated journey that Maupin tells in an engaging and insightful way.

The son of a traditional Southern lawyer, Maupin was born into a very conservative and privileged family, in a home that included a portrait of a Confederate ancestor. He grew up to be the perfect white and conservative son, but his journey away from that world is the fascinating part of this story, and it’s his queerness that started that move, long before he told anyone.

His description of his childhood is very evocative, but it is his time in the Navy, posted to Vietnam, that stands out. There are tenderly erotic descriptions of the intimate rituals of Navy life, there are comic moments were Maupin struggles but succeeds in being the last American naval officer to leave Vietnam, and there are the tragic tales as Maupin grapples with his sexuality in the face of the very homophobic atmosphere of 1960s and 1970s America. The greatest and most compelling strand of his story is how his struggles and eventual acceptance of his sexuality changed him as a person, forcing him to reject his conservative upbringing and all its values.

This is the best thing that Maupin has written since the last Tales of the City novel. Maupin’s non Tales of the City novels always felt lacklustre, lacking the fun, insight and page-turning enjoyment of those books, as if he was trying to prove himself as a “serious novelist” but not quite succeeding. Logical Family is a breath of fresh air; it is Maupin as the natural storyteller, but one with an important story to tell, and Maupin at his page-turning best again.

The worst part of this book was that it ended too early, with Maupin beginning to publish Tales of the City as newspaper serial. I wanted to know what happened to him in the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s as the world around him changed so much. What could he tell us about those times?

Please Mr Maupin, can you write a sequel?

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Edited by Drew Payne
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This is definitely one to add to my book collection. I’ve always enjoyed the 'Tales of the City' series. I’m putting this one on my Christmas book list.

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8 hours ago, Mawgrim said:

This is definitely one to add to my book collection. I’ve always enjoyed the 'Tales of the City' series. I’m putting this one on my Christmas book list.

I really recommend it, it is the best thing he has written in years. But it does end too soon. I got so swept up in reading it that I reached the end far too soon.

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