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“Mary Anne Singleton was twenty-five years old when she saw San Francisco for the first time.”

That’s how Armistead Maupin kicked off Tales of the City back in 1978 when it was a column in the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1989 the last Tales of the City book came out, titled Sure of You, was released. This week the first new Tales book debuted, Michael Tolliver Lives. Maupin says this is not a “sequel” since it can stand alone from the other six books, and, unlike the other books, this is a first person account making it the most intimate of the books.

Maupin was part of the “Upstairs at the Square” series at Barnes & Noble in Union Square last night to discuss and read from the new book. It was a treat to hear him read and talk of the decades long experience he’s had working with the Tales characters. The program was recorded and you can watch it on the Barnes & Noble website. It was cool that he cracked himself up while reading. There’s a phrase in the book that references “Barney’s winking sphincter” and he recalled Ian McKellen saying those words when he recited some passages from the book in a recent one-man show. You can just imagine what that would sound like with McKellen’s proper English accent.

I remember initially discovering Tales of the City when the first miniseries aired on PBS in 1993. After that I devoured all the books and watched the other two miniseries that Showtime produced in 1998 and 2001.

For the 1998 More Tales of the City miniseries, I had the chance to interview Maupin (as well as Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney) because I was working for two satellite TV guides. “What I’m really proud of is that the story has, from the beginning, attempted to create a very large canvas that includes everyone,” he said. “That is the point of it. That you get to see the ways in which these lives are parallel, and the way they interconnect, and the way in which they form a family in spite of their enormous differences.”

Maupin found that family coming back together in the new book. He said last night that he had not intended for other Tales characters to be included. But as he wrote, he found all the other characters begging to make an appearance. Maupin also said that he’s considering another Tales book that will be full blown sequel for the series.

In the meantime, fans get to relish in the new story and see how one of the characters is handling life in his 50s. And, if you’ve got the Logo channel, the Tales miniseries run often. I have no doubt that if you’ve never read it/seen it, that you’ll fall in love with all of the characters just like I have.