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Review of "Mary Ann in Autumn" by Armistead Maupin

The Castro in 2010 isn't nearly as much fun as Russian Hill in 1978, and Collingwood Street cannot compare with Macondray Lane. To make matters worse, Anna Madrigal in Armistead Maupin's new book, "Mary Ann in Autumn," is old - when we first meet her she is lying on the kitchen floor having what she calls a little snooze - and Mary Ann Singleton is 57. Lord, what would Laura Linney think of that?

I'm not as much fun now either as I was in 1978, when I read the serialization of "Tales of the City" in The Chronicle. Gay sex, gay drama, gay tragedy and gay fun - funnier than straight fun - made each excerpt a must-read. With each one I felt smarter, more sophisticated and a whole lot wittier. Here were people I would never meet who welcomed me into a world I would never know but who suffered and laughed and worried and enjoyed life just like the rest of us, or like the rest of us were trying to do, not so easy with all those straight people interfering.

With the exception of Anna Madrigal, everybody back then was becoming; in "Mary Ann in Autumn," almost everybody is. Is is never as much fun as becoming. Take it from one who is closer in age to Mrs. Madrigal than to Mary Ann, although so far I do not nap on the kitchen floor.

So what does Maupin offer us to blunt the pain of aging, in its own way a sort of becoming? In addition to Facebook, he offers us the kind and gentle Michael Tolliver, Mary Ann's best friend both then and now, whose advice and sympathy she has come to seek as a wounded wife buried for too long in Connecticut. Michael, too, has been wounded by time and life: the death from AIDS of many friends, a shrinking economy, the changes in his almost-60 body. He cannot help but worry about the age difference - 28 years - between him and his husband of three months, and clings to the possibility of building a cabin in the Sierra on a bit of land he'd bought in better times.

(Read the full review at the link above.)