Madrigal faces her end of Days
The past returns in final instalment of Tales of the City
Armistead Maupin HarperCollins
What could be more pleasant than having a dear old friend back in town? That’s the feeling Armistead Maupin’s fans will get from reading his latest novel, The Days of Anna Madrigal.
This is the ninth and final instalment in Maupin’s bestselling Tales of the City series, made even more popular by the TV series of the same name starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney. Dukakis played Anna Madrigal, the iconic transgender landlady of 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco.
Madrigal is now 92. No longer a landlady, she has decamped to San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle neighbourhood. She entertains her many visitors in her parlour, where she sets out sherry, shortbread — and marijuana.
When this novel opens, several of Madrigal’s friends are planning to attend the Burning Man art event in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Anna is heading to another part of Nevada. Her old friend and former tenant Brian and his new wife, Wren, are taking Anna to Winnemucca, the town where she grew up. Only in those days, Anna was Andy Ramsey.
Maupin’s story shifts back and forth between the past and the present, in much the same way as Anna’s thoughts.
Dust is an important symbol in this novel. Though Maupin never invokes the phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” from the Anglican burial service, it hovers over his story’s surface. Dust represents both creation and death. Like all of us, though perhaps in a more dramatic way, Anna has created herself. And like all of us, she will return to dust.
The Days of Anna Madrigal