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Tales of the City (Tales of the City #1)

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  22,564 ratings  ·  1,535 reviews
San Francisco, 1976. A naïve young secretary, fresh out of Cleveland, tumbles headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests. The saga that ensues is manic, romantic, tawdry, touching, and outrageous - unmistakably the handiwork of Armistead Maupin.
Paperback, 269 pages
Published 1989 by Black Swan (first published 1978)
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Maurice by E.M. ForsterBrokeback Mountain by Annie ProulxThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGiovanni's Room by James BaldwinTales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Best Gay Fiction
5th out of 1,137 books — 1,461 voters
Middlesex by Jeffrey EugenidesThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerTipping the Velvet by Sarah WatersMaurice by E.M. ForsterTales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Best LGBTQIA literature
5th out of 893 books — 885 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jason
Aug 15, 2007 Jason rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like a good story and/or queer literature
Shelves: favorites
Tales of the City is not great literature. That's not what Maupin's aiming for. In what is the first and best book in a six-part series constructed from a serial column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Tales of the City is smart, guilty entertainment at its best. It's a soap opera. But like, say, Six Feet Under, Tales of the City purports to be little more than a creative and intelligent soap opera. Taken as such, it is a delight. Vivid characters. A setting -- San Francisco -- that Maupin gives ...more
Mark
Obviously a re-read! Having recently read the latest in the series, Mary Ann in Autumn, I wanted to re-read the entire series. Unfortunately, I am so familiar with the first three books, which were also made into TV adaptations, that I know the stories and most of the dialogue off by heart, so I can't get the same, mind-blowing enjoyment that I did on my first reading. (Although that is one of the pleasures of reading, for instance, Michael Tolliver Lives, where past events are mentioned and you ...more
Lena♥Ribka


3,5 stars rounded up to 4 stars.


I think about...some things...

1) Could I have liked it more if I had read it shortly after the release date. The answer is SURE. OF COURSE. NO DOUBTS.

2) Could I have liked it more if I hadn't' read
Boystown series
? Probably yes. BEFORE reading Tales of the City I was sure that Jake Biondi has discovered a totally new genre. Only Armistead Maupin published his Tales around 35 years earlier than Jake Biondi his Boystown series.(San Francisco vs. Chicago, calm
...more
Alison
I think I am either too old or too young to fully appreciate this book. If I were older, I might appreciate the groundbreaking nature of its matter-of-fact approach to a variety of characters of different sexuality and gender at a time when social mores were drastically changing. And if I were younger, I might be totally enchanted by all the entertaining drama, good and bad and self-absorbed, that comes with being young, single and in your twenties in a big city.

But I wasn't able to really conn
...more
mark monday
i really don't get what all the fuss is about. this is some kind of modern classic? the writing is so pedestrian, it's like i fell into a deep sleep and somehow continued reading.

B-O-R-I-N-G ... P-R-O-S-E

still, an extra star because of the surprisingly intricate narrative.

and that said, i think the miniseries was far more distinctive and interesting.
Shovelmonkey1
Jan 17, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fluffly libertines and fans of chapter blitzwort
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: my gbff
Fluffy hetero/homo romantic nonsense set in San Fran in a time period which I am not really clear on but it might be the end of the 1970s. I think Nixon gets a mention. Or maybe it was Carter. Anyway it's not the summer of love and that's what is important as most of the characters in the book seem to spend a lot of time bemoaning the passing of '67 and wondering what will become of them now that all the free love has gone away or at least become more illusive. People are still producing their o ...more
David Gallagher
Jun 19, 2010 David Gallagher rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Can't think of anyone I wouldn't recommend it to
Recommended to David by: My lovely Richard
I didn't actually read this book, but it was rather read to me, and the person who did the reading truly brought it to life - I don't think I would have loved this book so much if I had read it on my own.

I've always loved books with complicated, multi-layered, engaging characters and this one definitely offers that. Their philosophy on life radically different from the next person - they laugh and love and hurt, and their stories intertwine unexpectedly and excitedly beneath the San Francisco sk
...more
Kassa
I’d never heard of this book until it started showing up on a lot of author lists of their top 10 favorite books of all time. It’s been described as a gay classic and authentic to San Francisco in the 1970’s. Since this story was first published in the newspaper as a serial in the 1970’s, it has gone on to be a miniseries that garnered several award nominations. Even reading the book today, it remains a whimsical delight that clearly set the stage for many such spin offs in the future. The begin ...more
Ije the Devourer of Books
This is a fascinating story which rambles through the lives of a group of people living in San Francisco. There is nothing special about these people. They are all completely different: male, female, gay, straight, old, young, etc (no racial diversity though) Each person in the story is connected in some way to another person either through work, friendship, neighbours or fleeting acquaintances.

The story has a way of speaking about these different lives through short snippets or glimpses into t
...more
Matt
Wow, I haven't hated characters this much since the last thing I saw by Nicole Holofcener. During my trip to San Francisco, I kept thinking, "If I see any of the characters, I will kick them in the nuts."
I'm missing a lot because I didn't read this in 1978, when having half the characters be gay was revolutionary. Maupin was a pioneer of his day, but it's no fun to read about pioneers of the internal worlds of sexuality, drug use, purpose, and social awareness. External pioneers like Lewis and
...more
Jack
One of the most overrated authors of all time. Not surprisingly the fact that this series of amateurish daytime soap-opera novellas were adapted for TV meant it was one of those rare instances in which the TV adaptation was actually better than the books. Okay, to be fair, I only read the first book. I slogged through the whole thing, and i absolutely hated it. But, this much i know. The reader could not possibly relate to the San Francisco backdrop unless he had actually spent quite a bit of ti ...more
Claire Stevens
Tales of the City is the first in a series by Armstead Maupin. It’s set in the mid seventies in San Francisco and follows an intertwined group of characters, some of whom rent apartments in a building on Barbary Lane, and others who are affiliated with an advertising agency.

I enjoyed this book a lot and I think what makes it so special are the characters. The author uses his words really sparingly but you get a true sense of who all these people are. Although Mary-Anne is supposed to be the mai
...more
Vanessa
This was a really fun and enjoyable read, and a real breath of fresh air from the (mostly) very serious literature I have been reading recently.
It took me a little while to get used to the multiple characters at first, but after a while I was beginning to recognise their speech and the situations they would be getting themselves into. By the end of the book, it felt like a lot of them were old friends, and I loved that aspect of the book.
At times, just due to the clubs and bars that were frequen
...more
Nicole Gervasio
It's pretty silly, shameless, and sometimes downright gaudy, but I love it. The Tales of the City series might be one of the closest texts my community has to a biblical/historical record: those characters can still be found in San Francisco, so reading about them makes me nostalgic all the time. The fact that somebody was writing all of this from the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s HIV/AIDS epidemic in the city is mind-blowing; as you read the books, you get the sense that you're witnessing ...more
Bill
Back in 1994 I first heard of 28 Barbary Lane due to the PBS mini series. Still in the closet and living with the folks it wasn't something I would feel comfortable watching. But still it peaked my interest.

A few years later while dog sitting for my brother in Boston I went into a quaint little book store that is no longer and found the hardcover '28 Barbary Lane' containing the first three 'Tales' books and bought it. Later on, back in Boston for another dog sitting weekend that quaint book sto
...more
Armin Hennig
Gut 30 Jahre lang habe ich das Merkheft von 2001 verschlungen, gefühlte 10 Jahre die Werbung für Maupins Stadtgeschichten, allerdings waren die Bücher immer irgendwie zu teuer.
Insofern griff ich bedenkenlos zu, als mir gegen Ende der D-Mark-Ära „Schluss mit Lustig“ in die Hände fiel. Der letzte Teil, mit dem ich seinerzeit nicht viel anfangen konnte und in die Kiste mit den guten Vorsätzen verschob.
Beim Umräumen fiel er mir unlängst wieder in die Hände und angesichts der Alternative abstoßen ode
...more
Lidija
San Francisco, 1976. After this book you'll get the impression that everyone was a bit queer and doing drugs.

With Mary Ann moving from Cleveland to San Fran you get introduced to the whole scene. You meet her pot-growing landlady Anna, her boss Edgar, Edgar's daughter DeDe, DeDe's husband Beauchamp, her neighbors Brian, Michael, Mona etc. There is a LOT of characters. And SOMEHOW they are all connected. Talk about a small world, San Fran must be the size of an Oreo.

For my taste it was a bit too
...more
Jennifer Lane
My oldest sister Laurie, who was involved in the theater scene, used to rave about this series. When my book club selected Tales of the City, I finally had the opportunity to see what the fuss was about.

The story focuses on the interweaving lives of the residents of a San Francisco apartment complex in the 1970's. Groovy, man. Though the cultural references are obviously dated, I found this novel to be hilarious! I'm going to highlight some of the passages that had me giggling. I'm not sure if y
...more
Cynthia
Had very different expectations of this book, which dampened my enjoyment. I couldn't wait to get it over with, but I couldn't abandon it either. Sure, it was a fun read... but I've had funner. If you didn't know this was a series, you'd be frustrated with the unanswered plot lines (but I ultimately don't really care enough to read the rest). Living in San Francisco, I felt obligated to read this book. Maybe this book is hyped in this particular city, and that's why I had higher expectations? Be ...more
jesa
Sep 11, 2007 jesa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: bay area-philes
this was a pretty easy read. it was a fine tale of intertwining lives of motley characters living in san francisco in the 70s...it's dated but it's meant to be. it feels like a game of 'spot the landmark', and makes me miss living in san francisco, though it's just been a few weeks since i left. the stories were not overlty compelling or even incredibly interesting since the edginess of the text has probably softened immeasurably over the years. also, the end feels a bit rushed and almost absurd ...more
cody
I had heard of this book for a while, it seems to be quite famous. Especially given that I live in San Francisco its as though I cannot turn my head without the book being referenced in some form or another.

So when I finally got around to reading it I was disappointed. I was dismayed that the book is a glorified soap opera. For some reason I thought it was solid literature, but no, soap opera all the way.

It is an entertaining read. But I felt like I was eating popcorn or cereal. All fluff, no su
...more
Ivan
These novels (eight in all as of 12/17/2011) are among my favorites. The characters and I have aged together - we share a common experience (as we have lived at the same time, no doubt). So, to me, these aren't simply characters in a book, but old friends both dear and cherished. Each new book is a welcomed reunion. The stories are always chock full of emotion; they are funny, charming, melancholy, melodramtic and often feature a mystery (of sorts). I find these tales life affirming.
Mel Bossa
Memorable characters and crazy good dialogue. Loved Mona. Really enjoyed Michael. But my favorite character had to be Brian! I'll be reading more of these tales in the months to come.

In his remarkable feminist, humanist, ground breaking tale, Maupin really truly captured both a city, its corky, horny, funny, and caring people, as well as an era long gone now.

Made me wish I was there with them. Don't we all wish we could go to sleep under Mrs. Madrigal's roof?

Simon
Everytime I read this series I love it more and more. Now going to work through them all again.
KatieMc
A busy soap opera that was fun and brought back memories of my early visits to San Francisco when I was an impressionable teen. It was a new exciting and beautiful city with so much to offer. This really is a lovely time capsule of what it was like in San Francisco in the late 1970s. Certainly gay culture is a big part of it, but it wasn't everything. Most of all, San Francisco seemed to represent liberation from whatever you needed to get away from.
Diane D.
A re-read of a vintage/classic /fun romp through San Francisco in the late 70's.

As always, I enjoyed the depiction of one of my top 2 favorite cities worldwide, as well as all of the characters even if I despised one of them (Beauchamp!) The book left quite a few loose ends and for sure I'll be reading the sequels More Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City to see where roads lead some of my all time favorite characters.

Favorite memories of this book are Mrs. Madrigal's 'calling card'
...more
Dottie
Watched the mini-series from this on PBS when it first aired -- fell in love with the whole thing and found three (at least) of my all-time favorite actors in roles within this series. THEN I went out and read the book the first time -- revisiting it was just as much fun as watching the Tales unfold week by week on TV all those years ago. NOW I'm going to do what I've alway intended to do since then -- I'm going to read the whole series of books -- one after the other like Sandy Duncan consumed ...more
Ian
Dec 11, 2009 Ian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ian by: sharon
I picked this up at a library book sale in Florida, read it in Florida, Israel and Egypt and really loved it. Perhaps I'm just homesick, but I think there's something more than that.

First of all, it really feels like San Francisco. Many of the places, characters and institutions haven't changed in the thirty five years since the book first came out. We've still got Cliff House and The Endup, Eccentric land-ladies and advertising copywriters on coke, and Safeway dating and halloween. More than th
...more
Carrie
Listening to this on my epic commutes to the south-end, and it is DE-wait-for-it-LIGHTFUL. I love a good giant, connected cast to begin with, and slightly ridiculous, soapy plots are even better, but what really impressed me about this is how it manages to simultaneously capture San Francisco at a particular point in time (post-60s, pre-AIDS) but not come across as dated. How is that even possible? I don't know.

The narration is excellent. The dialogue made me laugh out loud -- I think the last b
...more
Jan
Deliciously dated to my childhood/adolescence in the seventies, this book was more enjoyable for the flashes of recognition of seventies brands and movements and of places I know in San Francisco than for characterization, plot, or writing, all of which were facile but thin. Nor did the queer characters bear any particular resemblance to anyone I've known in my life. It's a good old-fashioned genre soap opera, and I might read the next volume (*More Tales of the City*) someday as a guilty pleasu ...more
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Armistead Maupin ...: Tales of the City 1 7 Oct 27, 2014 06:08PM  
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Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam.

Maupin worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. In 19
...more
More about Armistead Maupin...

Other Books in the Series

Tales of the City (9 books)
  • More Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #2)
  • Further Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #3)
  • Babycakes (Tales of the City, #4)
  • Significant Others
  • Sure of You (Tales of the City, #6)
  • Michael Tolliver Lives (Tales of the City, #7)
  • Mary Ann in Autumn (Tales of the City, #8)
  • The Days of Anna Madrigal (Tales of the City, #9)
More Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #2) Further Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #3) Babycakes (Tales of the City, #4) Significant Others Sure of You (Tales of the City, #6)

Share This Book

“Nobody's happy. What's happy? Happiness is over when the lights come on."
The older woman poured herself a glass of sangria. "Screw that," she said quietly.
"What?"
"Screw that. Wash your mouth out. Who taught you that half-assed existential drivel?”
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“Mona knocked at the wrong time.
“Uh…yeah…wait a minute, Mona -- ”
Mona shouted through the door. “Room service, gentlemen. Just pull the covers up.”
Michael grinned at Jon. “My roommate. Brace yourself.”
Seconds later, Mona burst through the doorway with a tray of coffee and croissants.
“Hi! I’m Nancy Drew! You must be the Hardy Boys!”
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