Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Armistead Maupin’s Logical Family

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 4th November, 2017

EB429773-971F-4C02-9C12-43B25DDEC73DThough Armistead Maupin is several years my senior, and has devoted most of his life to writing, fiction rather than history and biography like me, there are quite a few parallels in our lives, as I discovered when reading his entertaining memoir Logical Family (Doubleday, £20). I realised my alienation from the household I grew up in earlier than he did, but away from our hometowns we both found friends and constructed a “logical” rather than “biological” family among whom we felt at ease. Spookily, it turns out that we were both in Vietnam during the War, twice, at the same time, he first with the US military then later as a civilian volunteer, me as a very young journalist. Less surprising was our friendship with and mutual admiration for Christopher Isherwood. Like Chris, Armistead found his adopted sexual-spiritual home in California, though in San Francisco rather than Los Angeles. Moreover, like Isherwood’s autobiographical works, Maupin’s is a (sometimes no holds barred) confessional. He bathed in the promiscuous freedom of pre-AIDS gay life before settling down with a psychologically supportive younger partner, now husband. Apart from the extended passages relating to a Vietnam — which obviously had a special interest to me — the memoir is largely a coming-of-age/coming out story of an originally awkward conservative Southern boy whose almost accidental fictional vocation helped him along the road of self-discovery. The book ends with a touching final meeting with his shrunken, widowed father, who casts aside decades of homophobia in what amounts to a benediction.

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