Among devotees of Texas literature, this book is iconic. It is the only book that the author, Billy Brammer, ever completed before turning to drug abuse and an early death. The book is actually three short novels built around a Texas governor patterned after Lyndon Johnson and includes references to other political personalities of the 1950s. Each of the short novels is essentially an exercise in personality development around events that take place over a brief periods of time. They include the passage of a bill in the Texas legislature, election of an appointed senator, and the making of a movie similar to Giant, all of which are manipulated by the governor and all of which involve widely unrealistic consumption of alcohol. While I'm old enough to remember the 1950s, this book might have been better if read closer to the time of the events described. In my opinion, if it was ever a good as others remember, it has not stood the test of time.
of Texas politics doesn’t disappoint even if it doesn’t entirely satisfy either. Populated by a host of familiar characters things haven’t changed much in some very sad ways. Brammer’s elegant prose still makes the reader want to weep at its beauty.
Billy Lee Brammer's THE GAY PLACE deserves its acclaim as one of the great political novels. Brammer beautifully--and that really is the right word to describe Brammer's ear for dialogue--recreates the political world of 1950s Texas of which LBJ was the undisputed king. Governor Arthur Genstemaker is pure LBJ, so much so that one gets the sense that this novel was must reading for Robert Caro when Caro set out to write the definitive biography of the one time president. What is also obvious with the book is how much politics is not a happy place, that the lives of the participants are empty, that relationships are ruined, and that alocohalism and unfaithfulness are givens. It is anything but a gay place.
Why not then a five star review given the praise above? The three pieced together extended stories--"The Flea Circus," "Room Enough to Caper," and "Country Pleasures"--really should have been novels each on their own. In extending each, Brammer would have been able to work through some of his pacing issues and also the conclusion to "Room Enough to Caper."
One of the most famous watering holes in Austin, Texas, where legislators, lobbiests, government officials, businessmen, and university students hung out, was a gay, happening place that attracted all comers. Into this beer-infused environment, came much of the "bidness" of government and other fascinating transactions. Billy Lee Brammer, author of The Gay Place, definitely knew where the bodies were buried, and for reasons all his own, he decided to reveal a lot of it here. Austinites, who sat up night after night, matching information from the novel with assorted colorful, non-fictional characters, were intrigued with backstories that gave legs to whispered rumors. Over time, many changes have occurred, not only with the characters and places themselves, but also with the words used to describe them. A sneak peek into the colorful citizens of a smallish Texas town on the cusp of exploding into a sophisticated city, this three-books-in-one novel is a fun read for those who have moved in later and heard the stories.
Ok, I get it. This is supposed to be a book about Austin and Texas politics in the 1960s. It was written by a guy who was on LBJ's staff. All I have to say is that he must have been asleep. Texas politics was a great deal more hard hitting than this book. I seldom give up on a book. This one is really three novels in one. The first one starts off slow and maintains that same pace. The second one slows it down even more. It wanders around with a bunch of characters that have no depth, but I guess, there wasn't much depth in Austin in 1960. It is supposed to be a Texas Classic ( my reason for buying it). I do not think it will add much to anyone's body of knowledge much less their enjoyment.
I read this because in a recent interview Larry McMurtry said it was one of the two best books about Texas, the other being one of his. I've enjoyed three or four of his novels and I like Texas so that was good enough for me. Mistake. The writing was good, description, narration and characterization, but there's really no plot. If you don't care about the people then what's the point and the people were too uniformly a depressed bunch of heavy drinkers whose unhappiness was difficult to understand or empathize with.