Cover image for Significant others
Significant others
Maupin, Armistead.
Personal Author:
First HarperPerennial edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperPerennial, 1994.

Physical Description:
322 pages ; 21 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"An extended love letter to a magical San Francisco."
--New York Times Book Review

Tranquillity reigns in the ancient redwood forest until a women-only music festival sets up camp downriver from an all-male retreat for the ruling class. Among those entangled in the ensuing mayhem are a lovesick nurseryman, a panic-stricken philanderer and the world's most beautiful fat woman. Significant Others is Armistead Maupin's cunningly observed meditation on marriage, friendship, and sexual nostalgia.

"Comedy in its most classical form...some of the sharpest and most speakable dialogue you are ever likely to read."
--The Guardian

"The color is wonderful, the line bold and flowing. It is also wise, witty, loving and caring about the foibles and frailties we all seem to have."
--David Hockney

Author Notes

Armistead Maupin was born in Washington D.C. on May 13, 1944. He received a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam.

He worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. In 1976, he launched his groundbreaking Tales of the City serial in the San Francisco Chronicle. The series describes a group of characters that live together in a boarding house in San Francisco. Eventually, these Tales were collected into a series of six novels. In 1993, the British Broadcasting Company adapted them for a television series that aired on PBS in 1994.

His other works include Maybe the Moon, Michael Tolliver Lives, and The Days of Anna Madrigal. The Night Listener was adapted into a movie starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The fifth installment of Maupin's serial saga (the first was Tales of the City, Booklist 75:28 S 1 78; the most recent, Babycakes 81:192 O 1 84) upholds the author's reputation for wit, warmth, and bright, believable dialogue. As usual, it's about the trials and adventures of San Francisco lovers, gay and straight, who strive for commitment in the face of the ever-tempting allures of uncommitted flesh. A lesbian couple attends a women's music festival at which both receive the flattery of strangers. A rich old man arranges trysts with the Rubensian Wren Douglas (``the world's most beautiful fat woman'') while attending the patrician Bohemian Grove camp out for the wealthy and mighty. A gay man turns a consolatory weekend in the country with a straight friend (who is worried that he may be infected with the AIDS virus) into courtship of a handsome visitor from South Carolina. All three plots intertwine comfortably, making the novel a kind of modern Midsummer Night's Dream set amid the redwoods. Sparkling popular fiction that's just about impossible to put down until the last page is turned. RO. [CIP] 86-46088

Publisher's Weekly Review

Readers familiar with Maupin's Tales of the City series will greet this latest installment like a welcome visit from old friends. Once again, the action focuses on the misadventures of a cross-section of San Franciscans, who this time take to the country for a late summer weekend in three separate gender-segregated retreats: a gay resort, a lesbian music festival and the infamous encampment of privilege at Bohemian Grove. While the trio of settings couldn't be farther apart in spiritat least on the surfacethey all are within shouting distance of each other on the banks of the Russian River, and the three worlds, inevitably, collide. With its blend of satire, slapstick and melodrama, the novel, which originated as a newspaper serial, is as light as a souffle, although the very real threat of AIDSwhich has claimed one character's gay lover and seems to be closing in on another character, a philandering husband who panics after a brush with illnessgives the story relevance and impact. Maupin writes with a warmth and humor that is sorely missed in some recent gay novels having more overtly literary aspirations; his tales may be sparkling entertainments, but they are lit with a glowing humanity that brings each character to vivid, poignant life. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Significant Others Chapter One Descent into Heaven Brian's internal clock almost always woke him at four fifty-six, giving him four whole minutes to luxuriate in the naked human body next to him. Then the Braun alarm clock on the nightstand would activate his wife with its genteel Nazi toot-ling, and her morning marathon would begin. Today, with three minutes to go, he slipped his arm around her waist and eased her closer until her back had once again settled against his chest. It was risky, this part, because sometimes she would jerk awake with a start, as if frightened by a stranger. He pressed his face against her neck, then traced with his forefinger the shallow swirl of her navel. It was smooth and hard now, miraculously aerobicized into a tiny pink seashell. She stirred slightly, so he flattened his hand to keep from tickling her and made sure their breathing was still in sync. At the two-minute mark, he eased his knee between her legs and tightened his grip around her waist. She groaned faintly, then cleared her throat, so he let his hand fall slack against her belly. She countered by squeezing his knee with her thighs, telling him not to worry, he wasn't smothering her, she needed this time as much as he did. The French had it wrong about le petit mort . If you asked him, "the little death" was not so much the slump after sex as these few piquant moments of serious cuddling before the demands of Mary Ann's career sent her vaulting over his piss-hardened manhood in the direction of the toilet and the coffee machine. Another Nazi, that coffee machine. Even now, as he fondled her navel again, it was grinding its beans in the kitchen. The sound of it caused her to shift slightly and clear her throat again. "Like that?" she asked. "What?" "My belly button." "Mmm." "Took seven hundred hours," she said. "I figured it out." He chuckled at the tyranny of numbers that governed her existence. Everything has a price , she was telling him. It was her favorite theme these days. She rolled over in his arms and poked her finger into his navel. "Hey," he muttered, uncertain whether the gesture was one of affection or reprimand. She wiggled her finger. "Watch out," he said. "You fall in there and we'll have to organize a search party." He waited for a faint cry of protest, but none came. A half-assed "Come off it" would have sufficed, but all she did was remove her finger and prop herself up on one elbow. "Well," she said, "I guess I'm up." He knew better than to argue with this pronouncement. He would only receive the standard recitation of her crypto-fascist morning regimen. Aerobics at six. A bowl of bran at seven. A meeting with the producer at seven-thirty. Makeup session at eight. A meeting with staff and crew from nine to nine-fifteen, followed by promo shots for the next day's show and a session in the green room with this morning's guest celebrities. Life was a balibuster for San Francisco's most famous talk-show hostess. "So what's the topic today?" he asked. "Fat models," she replied. "Huh?" "You know. Those porkos who model for the big-and-beautiful fashions." "Oh." "It's a huge racket." She laughed. "Pardon the pun." She bounded over him and swung her legs off the bed, yawning noisily. "The book's on the dresser if you wanna take a look at it." As she headed for the bathroom, he brooded momentarily about the extra ten pounds around his waist, then got up and went to the dresser, returning to bed with the book. He switched on the bedside light and examined the cover. It was called Larger than Life: Confessions of the World's Most Beautiful Fat Woman . By Wren Douglas. A glamorous star-filtered cover photograph seemed to confirm the claim. The woman was big, all right, but her face was the face of a goddess: full red lips, a perfect nose, enormous green eyes fairly brimming with kindness and invitation. Her raven hair framed it all perfectly, cascading across her shoulders toward a cleavage rivaling the San Andreas Fault. "What is this?" Mary Ann was brandishing the roll of paper towels he had left in the bathroom the night before. "We ran out of toilet paper," he said, shrugging. He could do without her rhetorical questions at five o'clock in the morning. The alarm sounded. "Fuck off," he barked, not to her but to the clock, which deactivated obediently at the sound of his voice. Mary Ann groaned and lowered the roll of towels, banging it angrily against her leg. "I specifically told Nguyet to make sure we had enough to--" "I'll tell her," he put in. "She understands me better." She also liked him better, but he wasn't about to say so. He'd shared a special rapport with the Vietnamese maid ever since he'd discovered she couldn't tell the difference between Raid and Pledge. His pact of silence about the incident seemed the very least he could do for a woman whose uncle had been killed in an American bombing run over the Mekong Delta. "It's just a language problem," he said. "She's getting much better. Really." Mary Ann sighed and returned to the bathroom. He raised his voice so she could hear him. "Paper towels won't kill you. Think of it as a learning experience." "Right," she muttered back. "Maybe there's a show in it," he offered, trying to sound playful. "A dreaded new medical condition. Like . . . the heartbreak of Bounty butt." She didn't laugh. He thought for a moment, then said: "Viva vulva?" "Go to sleep," she told him. "You're gonna wake up Shawna." He knew what she was doing in there. She was reading USA Today , briefing herself for the show, learning a little about a lot tot keep from seeming stupid on the air. Significant Others . Copyright © by Armistead Maupin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Significant Others by Armistead Maupin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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