Books by the Bay: Armistead Maupin brings Anna Madrigal back for her final bow
01/20/2014 12:00:00 PM PST
01/24/2014 04:39:53 PM PST
All good things must end, and so it is with Armistead Maupin's 40-year-old "Tales of the City" series. The final installment in the quintessential San Francisco saga is out this month. Also among the recent new releases by Bay Area authors: a Civil War novel by Erin Lindsay McCabe; short stories by Molly Antopol; a contemporary mystery-thriller by Isabel Allende; and a nonfiction guide to defusing word bombs by psychologist Carl Alasko. "The Days of Anna Madrigal" by Armistead Maupin (Harper, $26.99, 288 pages) Who would have thought, when "Tales of the City" was released in 1974, that it would become a major franchise? With transgender heroine Anna Madrigal at the center, Armistead Maupin's serialized stories about San Francisco's burgeoning gay scene went on to inspire a TV miniseries, a musical, a song cycle and multiple sequels. It earned millions of followers along the way, and for "Tales" fans, it seemed that wise, funny, endearing Anna would go on forever. Yet, with "The Days of Anna Madrigal," Maupin has written the story's ninth and final installment.
As the book begins, Anna is 92 -- still the landlady at 28 Barbary Lane and still surrounded by her best bohemian friends, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver and Maryann Singleton included. Maupin updates the story with smart contemporary touches -- Twitter, iPads, and Facebook, which has replaced club-hopping as the principal vehicle for hooking up -- and the story reaches its apex with a visit to the Nevada desert for the Burning Man "Fertility 2.0" Festival. There are some touching detours along the way, including a look back at Anna's 1930s childhood (she was a boy named Andy.) It's been a long, strange trip, but with "The Days of Anna Madrigal," Maupin brings Anna's journey to a poignant, satisfying conclusion. "I Shall Be Near to You" by Erin Lindsay McCabe (Crown, $24, 320 pages) Rosetta Edwards is the heroine -- or shall we say hero? -- of Erin Lindsay McCabe's debut novel, which begins in New York in 1862. When her sweetheart, Jeremiah Wakefield, enlists in the Union Army, Rosetta -- a tomboy who works her father's farm with the strength of a man -- cuts her hair, dons masculine clothing and joins, too. Renamed Ross Stone, she ends up in Jeremiah's unit, enduring the sights, sounds and horrific losses of battle. It's a gripping story, and McCabe's writing gives it considerable effect; "I Shall Be Near to You" is a memorable addition to the literature of the Civil War. The author will read from the book Feb. 8 at Orinda Books. "The Un-Americans" by Molly Antopol (Norton, $24.95, 256 pages) Molly Antopol, named one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" in 2013, makes her debut with the eight beautifully crafted short stories in this collection. The inspiration for the book came from the Red Scare of the 1950s, but the stories fan out from the McCarthy era to modern-day Israel, communist Europe and back again. The cast includes immigrants, dissidents, banned artists and writers -- by reflecting on the past, Antopol creates characters who tell us much about our present. Hear the author in conversation with Tom Barbash at a book launch Feb. 5 at Booksmith in San Francisco. "Ripper" by Isabel Allende (Harper, $28.99, 496 pages) Isabel Allende returns from her 2013 novel, "Maya's Notebook," with another story featuring a strong young woman. Amanda Jackson is a school senior with a penchant for crime novels and a serious addiction to the online mystery game Ripper. She's also an amateur sleuth, and when a series of grotesque murders rocks San Francisco, Amanda stalks the killer. Ignoring warnings from her mother, -- a quirky New Age healer named Indiana -- and her dad, San Francisco's deputy chief of homicide, she's about to close the case when Indiana disappears. Allende, always a captivating storyteller, takes the reader through a parade of San Francisco locales and types, and Amanda -- like Maya -- is an engaging character. "Say This, Not That: A Foolproof Guide to Effective Interpersonal Communication" by Carl Alasko, Ph.D. (Tarcher/Penguin, $15.95, 219 pages) Have you ever said "You only think about yourself" to someone you love? Or asked "Why can't you ever be on time?" How about "Why are you such a nag?" According to Carl Alasko, a South Bay psychotherapist with 30 years' experience working with couples and families, those words aren't likely to get the desired result. In this concise how-to book, he offers new approaches -- and supplies alternate scripts -- for dealing with problems at work and at home. Keep it handy for your next silent treatment -- or finger-pointing spat.
Contact Georgia Rowe at email@example.com