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About the author:
Armistead Maupin was born in 1944 and was brought up in North Carolina by a Christian conservative family. Having both served in the US navyand worked for US senator Jesse Helms, he later moved to San Francisco and started to write. He is the author of six novels that comprise the Tales Of The City series, Maybe The Moon, The Night Listener and Michael Tolliver lives, which features a number of characters from the "Tales" series.
In 2007 he married website producer & photographer Christopher Turner in Canada.
The book's dedication reads:
"For Tamara De Treaux 1959 - 1990
Tammy phone home"
Then before the story:-
"Mr Woods (1981) C-112m. **** D: Philip Blenheim. Mary Lafferty, Roger Winninger, Callum Duff, Maria Koslek, Ray Crawford. A shy 11 year old boy (Duff) discovers a displaced elf living in the woods behind his family's suburban tract home. A warm, enduring fable of almost universal appeal about the nature of being different. Screenplay by Dianne Hartwig. Kevin Lauter's beguiling sets, featuring the most magical trees since THE WIZARD OF OZ, won him an Oscar.
Leonard Maltin's TV Movies and Video Guide 1992 Edition"
"Cadence Roth Acts for a Living" proclaims our central character's business card. Except that she doesn't, much. Almost 10 years ago, Cadence, or Cady as she's more commonly referred to, "starred" as Mr. Woods, the title character in the second biggest movie of all time. At just 31 inches tall she held the record for the World's Shortest Mobile Adult Human (until a Yugoslavian appeared, seemingly from nowhere) and was uniquely qualified to wear the Mr. Woods costume and provide movement in a number of critical scenes. The major downside to that is that the audience never got to see Cady's face.
Ten years of hollow promises from her agent, Leonard, has seen her feature in the odd horror / slasher movie and, more recently, in an infomercial for anticelluite cream where the only thing you can see of her is her legs. In short her career is going nowhere.
Encouraged by her "roommate" Renee to begin a diary, we follow Cady's life as she despairs at the lack of acting opportunities for herself and see how she is eventually referred, by Leonard, to Arnie Green, a booker of "speciality acts". Initially resistant to the idea, Cady finds herself working for an outfit called PortaParty, singing at children's birthday parties and finding new romance in the process.
A face from her past, Callum Duff, reappears in Hollywood after almost a 10 year absence to make a new movie. Enjoying a relationship with Cady's friend Jeff, he also attempts to build bridges between her and Philip Blenheim, director of Mr. Woods. It soon becomes apparent that there's an ulterior motive behind this but then Cady and Jeff spy a way to turn events to Cady's advantage and perhaps provide the platform for that elusive big break that she's been waiting so long for......
Narrated in the first person by Cady this book provides a moving insight into the everyday life of a Little Person. How does someone less than 3 feet tall cope with small children, large dogs and the nosiness and condescension dished out to her by the majority of full sized humans? In Cady's case, generally with fortitude, understanding and a large dollop of humour. There is, after all, a strong comic vein throughout much of the book.
One of the main themes of the book is difference and how people react to it. Cady, of course, is different by virtue of her height. Even a simple trip outside the house is fraught with obstacles that don't apply to adults within the usual height range. Getting onto a chair in a bar or a restaurant for example is not someone that as easily accomplished for Cady as it is for the rest of us and certainly can't be carried out with any degree of grace. Despite this, Cady's fiercly independent. She doesn't want to be carried everywhere and treated like a baby by whoever she's with. It's incidents like this that make you, as a reader, take some time to think about the challenges that life must present, not only to people like Cady, but also to those people with any sort of disability or physical problems.
Cady's voice comes through strongly, as you'd suspect given that she's the central character, and it's hard not to be won over by her optimistic and pragmatic approach to life. She may falter from time to time but she brings out any sort of protective streak that you, as a reader, might have (even though the character would hate being wrapped up in cotton wool and protected).
The number of main characters in the novel is small:- Cady, her 'roommate' Renee, her gay friend Jeff, her boss at PortaParty Neil, Callum Duff and Leonard meaning that there's enough opportunity and room in the book for each of the characters to develop and for the reader to get to know them and discover what makes them tick and what's important to them. The relationship between Cady and Renee is very interesting and is well depicted. They may get a little fed up of each other from time to time but Cady relies on Renee to help her with various physical tasks whilst Renee relies on Cady for support over her love-life which, not to put too fine a point on it, is a bloody mess! Renee comes across as a complete airhead but Maupin manages to make her something more than a one dimensional cut-out to the extent that you actually care about what happens to her and you want to know whether she'll find Mr. Right or not.
Jeff's older lover has died by the time the book starts so he's on his own. He's an out gay writer with very firm views on gays and their representation in the media. You have to wonder how much he's based on Maupin himself and / or Terry Anderson, his lover at the time the book was written. His developing relationship with Callum Duff provides a nice little subplot as Callum's in the closet and is filming a comeback movie that's might be a bit hit. The studio, of course doesn't want any "negative publicity" about their all action hero batting for the other team. Maupin adds extra stresses to their relationship by making the villain of the movie a gay killer, which, of course is something that Jeff has issues with. His can't believe his lover is making a film which portrays a fellow gay man in such a negative light whilst he's pretending to be straight at the same time. Will their relationship survive the external pressures? Will Callum get outed?
There's also a subplot which sees Cady get a bit of romance in her life. Five years after she last slept with someone & a year after she purchased "Big Ed" (purely to be used when Renee's out of the house because of the noise factor!) Cady experiences a new romance which is rather tender and touching. Maupin handles the sexual elements between Cady and her lover well and the whole relationship comes across as rather sweet when it could so easily have descended into cloying sentimentality.
You've probably guessed by now that "Mr. Woods" has an uncanny resemblance to 80s megahit ET. Cady comments on more than one occasion that the director, Philip Woods didn't want her talking about wearing the Mr. Woods suit and didn't want Mr Woods appearing in public or on any other shows because it would "spoil the magic". It would have been easy for Maupin to get angry at Hollywood for the way that Tamara was treated but thankfully he avoids this although there's a great part at the end of the book which involves some communication between Mr. Wood's director Philip Blenheim and scriptwriter Dianne Hartwig which is perhaps a sideways swipe at Tinsel Town. It's very funny and probably accurate too.
And, of course, the book attains a certain poignancy if you look for Tamara De Treaux on the end titles of ET. You certainly won't find her listed with the rest of the cast that worked on the film. No, she's tucked away under the heading "Other Crew" along with such figures as the unit accountant, the medical unit consultant and the still lab technicians. Maybe billing her any higher would have risked "spoiling the magic".....
In conclusion this book is warm, funny, tender, happy, sad and an all round good read. The language is accessible without being simplistic and the various plots are crafted well enough to retain the reader's interest and provide a few surprises along the way. A recommended read from me.
* Paperback: 336 pages
* Publisher: Black Swan; New edition edition (1 Sep 2000)
* Language English
* ISBN-10: 0552998753
* ISBN-13: 978-0552998758
There's an interview with Armistead Maupin in which he talks about his friendship with Tamara & writing "Maybe The Moon" here:-
(take out the space between the http & the "//"'s. Dooyoo decided that the web address was too long)