Friday, 26 October 2007

Review: "Babycakes" by Armistead Maupin

I picked up "Tales of the City" in the airport on my way to South Africa earlier this year, devoured it, and picked up the next two books in the series ("More Tales of the City" and "Further Tales of the City") for the trip back home to Stornoway.

I loved the dialog, especialy in the early works. I often found myself laughing out loud as I read, no matter the surroundings. The series is full of characters and situations that are great fun to read. I do get the sense that some of the characters are types rather than fully rounded, but it's the same as any good comedy, where you have a core of characters you know and then a whole host of bit players who act as foils for the core characters, allowing them new ways to express themselves. Some of the convoluted plots (the Jonestown arc, the Cannibal Cult), were a bit much, and distracted me to the point where I didn't feel the need to pick up any further books in the series for a while.

On the cusp of an upcoming trip to Copenhagen, I went by the public library to pick up some new reading material (I typically go through two or three books a trip). Browsing through the shelves, I found the fourth and fifth volumes in the series, "Babycakes" and "Significant Others". Just as half the popcorn rarely lasts me through the previews, I finished "Babycakes" before the trip even started.

What surprised me about this latest work was its change of tone. The Barbary Lane in the fourth book is a bit more somber. There's still humor and life, but the character of Mouse in particular is a bit wearier in a world that has moved into the 1980s and is now all too intimately aware of AIDS. There were also a few scene changes (Seattle, London) that allowed for a bit of good natured cultural commentary. I particularly enjoyed the several characters who found themselves traveling from the West Coast of the US to London, which resonates slightly with my own experiences a bit farther North and a few decades later.

Anyway, it's a good read, but probably is best enjoyed if you work your way through the earlier books. I have "Significant Others" with me and will likely comment on that shortly.

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