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The Gay Place (Texas Classics) Paperback – 1995

3.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An acute portrait of the capitol city’s politics and social mores, circa the fifties." (Texas Monthly)

"The best novel about American politics in our time." (Willie Morris)

"An American classic in which a Johnsonian figure named Arthur 'Goddam' Fenstemaker strides through the pages, large, earthy, intelligent, threatening, working it seemed more often on the side of the angels than against them." (Gore Vidal)

Review

"The best novel about American politics in our time." (Willie Morris)|"An American classic in which a Johnsonian figure named Arthur 'Goddam' Fenstemaker strides through the pages, large, earthy, intelligent, threatening, working it seemed more often on the side of the angels than against them." (Gore Vidal)
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Product Details

  • Series: Texas Classics
  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; Univ of Texas P edition (1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0292708319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292708310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Written by a former member of President LBJ's staff. It's no secret that Lady Bird Johnson did not like this "too close to home" novel that most say was based in part on her famous husband.
However, the true gem in these pages is an acurate account of the style of Texas politics during this time period. It honestly reflects what life in this arena was like from someone who was there to see it for himself.
When this novel was released, the author Billy Lee Brammer was touted as the next great American writer. That prediction never came true due to the tragedy in the author's own life. We are left with this first work and a wonder of what might have followed had the author's life followed a more positive path.
Newcomers to Texas politics are often told to read The Gay Place if they want to understand Texas politics and a land where politics is best described by the words of former Governor Ann Richards...."IN TEXAS...POLITICS IS A CONTACT SPORT!"
This story tells of a state where men and women most often rise to the top through their intelligence and skill and not their bloodline. It certainly is not a tale of wealthy trust-fund princes who merely walk through doors open by their fathers.
You can feel the humid summer heat of Austin and the sexy passion of it's people as these pages unfold. While this wonderful city has changed dramatically in the past thirty years, you can still find many of the story's locations full of Texas politicos and their groupies. A well written and entertaining novel.
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Format: Paperback
In the 500 plus pages of this remarkable trilogy, Billy Lee Brammer does more to explicate and evaluate American politics, especially Texas politics and even more especially, populist politics as practiced by Lyndon B.Johnson, than all the ponderous Caro-type analyses that weigh us down blur the color and cloy the flavor. More than a portrait of LBJ, the book is an artful depiction of the lure of politics and its terrible cost on those who pursue it. All this is conveyed with humor, sympathy and a clear-eyed vision of the American scene of the 60's.
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful trilogy of novels on state politics. Though they seem disjointed, they are unified around the shadowy figure of the governor, who lurks in the background manipulating people and events down to the minutest detail. Thus, the immediate action taking place is a kind of epiphenomenon, all players that are living chess pieces in the governor's grand game, which is never fully explained: that is the real art of this novel, that it leaves far more unsaid than explicitely stated. The reader has to connect the dots.

In the first novel, the governor has chosen a young legislator for an unaccustomed role in the spotlight: his life, like those of his cohorts, is a mess of alcohol and libertinism, but he is also struggling with his conscience to do the right thing. There are so many layers to what was really happening that it is impossible to explain, because the reader can only suspect what the governor is doing. The governor mixes the most intimate personal machinations, it appeared to me, with a legislative purpose and to depose (even destroy) a potential rival. It reminds me, of course, of LBJ, a politician without equal. One of the really interesting aspects is that the author describes many people just like GW Bush: priviledged, brash, debauched, and inadvertantly wondering what they should be doing. If you read this, you will understand GW Bush and his milieu much better - that is a sign of the timelessness of Bramer's achievement, truly a masterpiece.

The second novel is similar: the governor's enemies are defeated, while he stages and manipulates events to suit whatever his purposes are. It is at times brutal and sad, yet funny and even uplifting, particularly in the scenes of introspection, when the characters have flashes of insight and empathy.
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Format: Paperback
I might have gone with four stars if not for the format of three interlocking novellas. I would have preferred one long, fully connected story. The three novels revolve around the LBJ-like Texas governor Arthur Fenstermaker, although he is, oddly, almost a minor character in the first two novels. They focus more on the younger, less influential political players in the governor's orbit. When Fenstermaker does make an appearance, he demonstrates the raw power of the good ol' boy network of politicking.

All of the novels follow the self-inflicted downward spiral of the '50s-era Austin-tatious new rich, in all their debauched and vulgar incarnations. These were people who had started out in a highly idealistic, progressive political movement. They dissolved their lofty liberal hopes for the nation in an endless wash of booze and general moral degradation.

Billy Brammer was a staffer for Lyndon B. Johnson, so I have no doubt this is an accurate fictionalization of the time and place. Brammer was a fine writer with a special ability to probe the minds and hearts of characters who recognize their own weaknesses but can't seem to detach themselves from the thrill of power and the fun of being one of the beautiful people.

I had some difficulty remaining sympathetic toward the characters. Somewhere around the second chapter of the third novel, I was weary of them, and bored with their faux-apologetic drunken fumbling for each other's fleshy protuberances and dangling bits. It's a credit to Brammer that he created them so convincingly, and I'm grateful to have been reminded of why I stepped away from greater involvement in politics after my own experiences with people of this ilk in college.
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