LOG­I­CAL FAM­ILY By Ar­mis­tead Maupin

DNA Magazine - - BOOK REVIEWS -

Maupin is in­ter­na­tion­ally fa­mous as a writer and LGBTI ac­tivist. In writ­ing this mem­oir, it must have been tempt­ing to gloss over the long years he spent in the closet but, to his credit, he de­votes al­most half the book to those years. In his early life he was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent per­son, set on pleas­ing his South­ern (USA) fa­ther and ap­ing his deeply con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can views. He served in the Viet­nam War and was re­warded with an au­di­ence with Pres­i­dent Nixon. But Maupin’s jour­ney is likely to be fa­mil­iar to many gay men who feel com­pelled by bonds of fam­ily, re­li­gion and pol­i­tics to con­form. What freed Maupin was a job of­fer as a jour­nal­ist in San Fran­cisco, which took him across the coun­try, away from the con­straints of his fam­ily.

He quickly em­braced all the new free­doms San Fran­cisco of­fered. His first apart­ment was a block from Lafayette Park, a very busy beat and the bath­houses. There’s a sec­tion about his first meet­ing with Rock Hud­son and how they be­came friends. Maupin (fresh from the closet and duly enthusiastic) was frus­trated by Hud­son’s in­abil­ity to con­tem­plate these free­doms for him­self. They be­came cruis­ing and oc­ca­sional sex bud­dies, but the friend­ship ended when Hud­son’s AIDS di­ag­no­sis hit the head­lines and Maupin con­firmed that he was gay to a jour­nal­ist.

Maupin copped con­sid­er­able crit­i­cism for it, but doesn’t shrink from what he did. “Once the press could talk about Rock’s ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, a whole new di­a­logue could open about AIDS and the peo­ple whose suf­fer­ing had been ig­nored… Rock’s hos­pi­tal room re­ceived 35,000 let­ters of sup­port from fans say­ing they loved him just the way he was.”

Fans of the Tales Of The City books will de­light in the de­tail about the gen­e­sis of those nov­els (they be­gan as a news­pa­per se­rial) and de­tails that fed the cre­ation of those pop­u­lar char­ac­ters. The fa­mous “Let­ter to Mama” from Tales (reprinted as an epi­logue in this book) was Maupin’s own com­ing out to his mother. It elicited no re­sponse from her at the time but later in the mem­oir there’s a mov­ing scene of ac­cep­tance. Maupin’s par­ents visit him in San Fran­cisco, meet and en­joy the com­pany of his friends, and even at­tend a spon­ta­neous memo­rial for Har­vey Milk, who was mur­dered dur­ing their visit.

This mem­oir is Maupin’s best work to date. The writ­ing is more nu­anced than his Tales nov­els and his ac­count of his slow awak­en­ing and trans­for­ma­tion is can­did and unsen­ti­men­tal. He is un­afraid to paint him­self in an un­favourable light and his story will ring true for many, es­pe­cially those of his gen­er­a­tion. Im­por­tantly, this book may pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion to those who still strug­gle with the closet and its con­fin­ing stric­tures.

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