let the great world spin (colum mccann)*
CHALLENGER: more tales of the city (armistead maupin)

we meet again, maupin! i tried to relax and give this series a chance to take hold, and it worked: much as i pawed through the twilight series in the course of something like a fortnight (ten days of which were spent waiting for breaking dawn to come out), i've gone all junior high on the second collection of maupin's columns, the city after next more tales of the city. maupin's writing reads a bit like stephenie meyer's, in a sense; he doesn't stuff paragraphs with adjectives as enthusiastically she does, thank goodness (a meyer passage at its best/worst is like those hickory farms sausages that bleed cheese), but he knows his way around a cliffhanger, and his plots are propulsive in a similar way.

more tales of the city is both soapier than its predecessor - its twists include a quasi-secret scandinavian sex change operation, the acapulco debut of an amnesia victim named burke** who vomits every time he sees a rose, and the improper use of medical waste*** - and more serious: the chapter in which michael tolliver comes out to his conservative parents is really lovely, and the relationship that develops between him and jon the gynecologist is, in all seriousness, quite affecting. following it in a mainstream daily newspaper must have been incredibly meaningful for gay (and straight) readers, even though its fellow plots are rather silly. an unexpected development, that: the flourishes and coincidences that have endeared maupin to me also problematize his serious content's emotional impact. i should be cutting him some slack there, maybe: it seems that most people don't let dickensian coincidences, for example, spoil their appreciation of dickensian pathos. at the end of the day, my only real beef with the flourishes is that in the very best one, when mary ann vomits from the catwalk eight stories above the congregation at grace cathedral, she's still able to get out of the building without being stopped ("[t]he people below hardly knew what hit them.") reader, the barfed-upon know exactly what hits them.

VICTOR: let the great world spin. much as i love episcopalian cannibal cults, mccann remains the emotional heavy.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 are you a fan of sudsy drama?

02 do dickensian coincidences bother you?

03 has anyone ever barfed on you? come, let's heal together.

*previous battle here.

**burke is one of modern melodrama's most distinguished names, you see.

***that one's especially majestic.


Rachel (heart of light) said...

1. To the max. It's the only way to get my mind to relax, sometimes.
2. In books, no. In movies, I HATE them. Passionately. But I am generally much less accepting of movies than books.
3. No, thank god. I am a very quick jumper and good at getting out of the way.

Amanda said...

01 Oh yes oh yes oh yes oh yes.
02 No. 
03 On occasion, small littles being unlikely to know what's coming and all.

kidchamp said...

forgot to note: i think one of the nicest things about melodrama is how quickly an author can get rid of a tiresome character. just pages after one fellow in this book exhausts his dramatic potential, he explodes in a fireball in the broadway tunnel (i always knew that thing was a death trap!).  

baby jo said...

03  ....sorry about that.  

kidchamp said...


jacob said...

01 not really, though i think that reflects more on me (and the times we live in) than on the suds. i will say, however, that a really good corrective for me was carl wilson's "let's talk about love: a journey to the end of taste." it's part of the 33 1/3 album series, and the album under consideration is, uh, celine dion's "let's talk about love." it's less a review and more an investigation of why we like what we like (and why we don't like what we don't like), the history of sentimentalism in media, and why some people really, really like celine dion. it's not perfect - i could have done without wilson hammering home bourdieu's concept of cultural capital at every turn - but it did change my mind at least a bit on "sudsy drama."

02 in older books more than contemporary ones. and like amanda, it's certainly bothersome in modern movies.

03 no.

Milkmaid's dumb friend said...

01: “I want to submit that people who denounce the sentimental are generally unaware of what sentiment is.” – Vladeemer No-bow-cough.
02: My discriminating taste regarding Dickencidences reflects Na-bah-kov’s sentiment in the following (although I’m a great deal more lenient than his subordinate clause): “With a very few exceptions, mystery fiction is a kind of collage combining more or less original riddles with conventional and mediocre artwork.”
03: Hail Kidchamp, full of soda, the healing is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed is the fruit of thy Thundertome, (learning about an authentic Chandler-approved gin Gimlet, for instance).  Sacrosanct Kidchamp, mother of the imaginary reading group discussion questions, console us the barfed-upon, now and at the hour of our bespattering- Verily.

maggie said...

1.  oh so much. especially when gay characters are allowed (more possible combinations)
2.  nah
3.  no!  I feel like I am missing out.

LPC said...

03 Oh yes. But since I generated what they threw up on me, it was OK.

Peonies said...

1. On the days that I have a sense of humour, yes. 
2. Not so much. 
3. I threw up on myself today, does that count? 

jamie said...

wait. you kept reading? hm.

01 duh
02 no
03 no, just myself (and that is actually a good story)