Posts Tagged ‘Burning Man’

annaWhile watching Downton Abbey, I was thinking about Armistead Maupin’s The Days of Anna Madrigal (HarperCollins, digital galley), the ninth and supposedly final entry in the long-running Tales of the City series. It’s not so much a stretch as you might suppose. For starters, there’s Laura Linney, who introduces Masterpiece Theatre and who played Mary Ann Singleton in the Tales miniseries and is so identified with the character that Maupin dedicated his last novel, Mary Ann in Autumn, to her.

Anna Madrigal, of course, was embodied by Olympia Dukakis, and she is as inseparable from that role as Maggie Smith is from Downton’s Lady Violet. They both are formidable family matriarchs. And that’s my point. Both the Tales of the City series and Downton Abbey are family sagas with all the inherent drama, conflict and reconciliation as the years go by.

Anna, since her bohemian landlady days at 28 Barbary Lane, has presided over her “logical” — as opposed to biological — family with humor, grace and the ability to keep a secret.  Her own secrets have come out over the course of the books, and now, at 92, she still has a few more. These are revealed gradually in the new novel, which, while not exactly a stroll down memory lane, is still something of an episodic ramble. Flashbacks to Anna’s 1930s childhood in Winnemucca, Nev., when she was Andy Ramsey, son of the local brothel owner, are interspersed with current events as a sojourn to Burning Man by the other returning characters (Michael and husband Ben, Anna’s young roommate Jake, Brian’s daughter Shawna) coincides with Anna’s road trip with Brian and his new love to Winnemucca via Winnebago.

People, places and happenings are closely observed, from the familiar  in San Francisco to the strange in the desert of Burning Man, where bi-sexual Shawna is determined to conceive a child and where Mary Ann shows up in the first-aid tent. Meanwhile, Anna is searching out old landmarks in Winnemucca, where a family fun park becomes the site of an unexpected reunion and a neatly foreshadowed surprise.

Despite a few laugh-aloud set pieces and its overall wit, The Days of Anna Madrigal casts a bittersweet spell. As a friend noted, it’s sadly satisfying. Finishing it reminded me how much I’ve enjoyed the series and fow how long, as I noted in my blog post on Mary Anne in Autumn, https://patebooks.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/friending-mary-ann/

Now the tales have ended. Hail and farewell.

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