Logical Family: A Memoir - Armistead Maupin's tales of a gay life - We Recommend - My Gay Toronto
Logical Family: A Memoir - Armistead Maupin's tales of a gay life 21February 2018.
by Drew Rowsome-
There is such an effervescence in Armistead Maupin's prose, such a depth of loving humanity, that the deep pain and tragedy in Logical Family: A Memoir surfaces stealthily, surprising and shocking. It is not so much a coming out tale as it is a saga of why Maupin didn't come out until late in life, and how he more than made up for lost time. Born into a right-wing southern family, Maupin's quest to earn his segregationist homophobic father's respect, lead him to work for Jesse Helms, join the army, and even shake the hand of Richard Nixon.
Fortunately he finally fled to San Francisco and discovered a world where gay was not just tolerated but was soon to be celebrated. Maupin's masterpiece Tales of the City - first a serial in the San Francisco Chronicle, then a series of books, and eventually a television event - told the story of how gay liberation, and liberation for women, straights and trans, became a celebration. Tales of the City is full of fully-fleshed characters who are beloved by everyone who reads or views it. And with Logical Family, Maupin opens his heart and adds himself, and those he encountered, to that pantheon.
Maupin charts his struggles suppressing and then enthusiastically expressing his sexuality in parallel to the history of his family who had secrets of their own. His portraits of his grandmothers and complicated mother are particularly rounded and entertaining. His final scene with his father is ambiguous and devastating. While his biological family has a central role, Maupin's logical family takes centre-stage. The logical family contains both friends and celebrities, sometimes intertwined. As do all - biological, logical, casual, sexual and celebrity - on the night following Harvey Milk's murder. It is one of the three places in Logical Family where I was moved to tears.
There is no shortage of dish. Maupin cut a vividly described swath through the bathhouses and backrooms of San Francisco at the time when hedonism ruled. There is a chapter on his sexual and emotional friendship with Rock Hudson. Amusing and touching times spent with Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, and riotous adventures with his BFF Ian McKellen. Amidst that who's who of gay forefather royalty, there is also a bizarre and intriguing anecdote about John Travolta and the film Cruising that begs to be expanded or explained in depth.
Maupin's tales of his life eventually come full circle as he somewhat resolves his family issues and becomes a gentle but persistent activist. AIDS rears its ugly head and Maupin's true grace under pressure barely contains his simmering rage. It is quite powerful and an irresistible read. Never has history, and such a troubled history, been such a joy. Tales of the City should be required reading for every gay man, a task that is nothing but pleasure. And every gay man, amend that to everyone, will get misty-eyed when Maupin writes of Michael Tolliver's letter. As a gay man who was one of the millions who took that letter to heart and used it himself, it is a direct connection to the gentle genius spirit of Armistead Maupin.