It doesn’t seem like it, but it has been 35 years since the residents of Barbary Lane were introduced to the world in Armistead Maupin’s beloved “Tales of the City” series.
Ahead of their time in capturing the contemporary urban experience, the novels have grown to be a global sensation synonymous with San Francisco. Next year, the transgender doyenne of Barbary Lane gets her swan song in Maupin’s final book in the series, “The Days of Anna Madrigal.”
“I’m happy with it, but it was quite a challenge because this is the last novel in the series,” says Maupin, who appears Friday as the keynote interview in “Tales from Two Cities: Writing from California.” The two-day literary summit at the Main Library also features Dana Gioia, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kevin Starr, David Talbot, Michelle Tea and Tobias Wolff in lectures and talks.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to wrap things up because life doesn’t wrap things up at any given moment,” Maupin adds. “But I wanted a few satisfying tying up at the ends. I’m dealing with perhaps the most popular character, so I wanted to treat her with as much respect as possible.”
“Tales of the City” began as a serial assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle. A Southern transplant, Maupin came to San Francisco initially as an Associated Press reporter, a career he credits with informing his storytelling capabilities. The serial turned into novels with an eclectic set of characters whose global reach has surprised even Maupin.
“I thought it was kind of an in-joke that only San Franciscans can understand,” says Maupin, who now lives in New Mexico. “But consciously or not, I was writing about the mechanics of the new urban extended family, and that’s been happening all over the world, this mix of gay and straight and married and unmarried and the way in which we survive today.”
In the final book, the 92-year old Anna Madrigal returns to her homestead in Winnemucca, Nev., and the brothel she fled; many of the characters end up at Burning Man, which Maupin has attended.
“In [the book] I call it ‘a Fellini carnival on Mars,’” Maupin says. “It’s full of serendipity. You bump into people you wouldn’t think you’d see. It’s a visual at the end of it, and I love that this is going to be in my memory bank forever.”
IF YOU GO
Tales from Two Cities: Writing from California
Where: Koret Auditorium, Main Library, 100 Larkin St., S.F.
When: 1 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Contact: (415) 557-4400, www.talesfromtwocities.com