An Audience with Armistead Maupin
In Conversation with Damian Barr.
Theatre Royal, Brighton
Saturday, October 28
This was an unforgettable evening with the Tales of the City author celebrating the launch of his long-awaited memoir Logical Family. From his early life in the conservative South to liberal San Francisco, from his palm-reading Grannie to an awkward chat about girls with President Nixon, Armistead Maupin revealed the extraordinary people and places that helped him become one of the world’s best-loved writers. Funny, poignant and unflinchingly honest, this was a unique opportunity to listen to the man from Barbary Lane.
Armistead was talking to Damian Barr, writer and Literary Salon host; there was some unintended delight as the pick up on the mic of Damien Burr was set to some extraordinary forensic level of sensitivity, amplifying each scraping back of the hair, and loud chink chink and glug glug of a glass of water, it was sorted out after a while but was an unintentionally hilarious distraction from some of the answers.
Maupin shared some splendid memories with us, about his own biological family in all their public displays of white entitlement and ugly grand southern racism but also gave us insight into them as people, with some laugh out loud reminiscing about his father getting stoned and his mother cuddling up to a bisexual swinger friend of Maupin the first time they visited him in San Fransicso, which happened to be the weekend of Harvey Milk’s assassination.
This was a real peek into history as it was lived. He talked about his own personal journey from right wing closeted conservative to out and proud emboldened gay man and how important sex, sensuality and the sensual gentleness of random strangers in the dark was to him in the early days of his sexual expression.
Always a delight to see and a warm engaging speaker this was an entertaining evening with one of our legendary authors whose books taught many of us, of a certain generation, how to live, love and accept the extended families we built (and found) around us and still teaches us today – to call it out for what it is, no matter where it comes from, to question and challenge our biological families and try and teach them to understand us and to embrace – fully – and celebrate our loving logical families, that wonderful phrase first spoken by the delightful landlady of Barbary Lane, Anna Magdrigal.
Maupin wasn’t just here to delight however, but to encourage us to read (and buy) his new book and memoir Logical Family.
He took questions afterwards and displayed some of his trademark warm but devastating wit; a young lady standing up in a sequined jacket, and apologising profusely for the heteronormality of her question was reassured by Maupin that “her jacket more than made up for it”.
Charming, engaging and somehow deeply comforting as well, Maupin shines like a hard bright light in the darkness of the modern American twilight.
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