One of These Things First

Narrated by: Steven Gaines
Length: 5 hrs and 21 mins
4 out of 5 stars (500 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling author Steven Gaines comes a wry and touching memoir of his trials as a gay teen at the famed Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic.

One of These Things First is a poignant reminiscence of a 15-year-old gay Jewish boy's unexpected trajectory from a life behind a rack of dresses in his grandmother's Brooklyn bra-and-girdle store to Manhattan's infamous Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic, whose alumni includes writers, poets, and madmen as well as Marilyn Monroe and best-selling author Steven Gaines.

With a gimlet eye and a true gift for storytelling, Gaines captures his childhood shtetl in Brooklyn, and all its drama and secrets, like an Edward Hopper tableau: his philandering grandfather with his fleet of Cadillacs and Corvettes; a giant, empty movie theater, his portal to the outside world; a shirtless teenage boy pushing a lawnmower; and a pair of tormenting bullies whose taunts drive Gaines to a suicide attempt.

Gaines also takes the listener behind the walls of Payne Whitney - the "Harvard of psychiatric clinics", as Time magazine called it - populated by a captivating group of neurasthenics who affect his life in unexpected ways. The cast of characters includes a famous Broadway producer who becomes his unlikely mentor; an elegant woman who claims to be the ex-mistress of newly elected president John F. Kennedy; a snooty, suicidal architect; and a seductive young contessa. At the center of the story is a brilliant young psychiatrist who promises to cure a young boy of his homosexuality and give him the normalcy he so longs for.

For listeners who love stories of self-transformation, One of These Things First is a fascinating memoir in the vein of Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted and Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors. With its novelistic texture and unflagging narrative, this book is destined to become one of the great indelible works of the memoir genre.

©2016 Steven Gaines (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
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An Unlikely Subject for Me

I'm a straight female, not Jewish, not from New York and forgot how this book got in my wish list. However, I found Steven Gaines's story about growing up in Brooklyn and trying to deal with his homosexuality fascinating. I can't imagine anyone else other then him as narrator. The evolution of psychiatry, as it pertains to homosexuals, in the last 50 years is also interesting to observe.

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It's an interesting look into this man's youth

This book was a nice reminder that there are people who are actually more neurotic than I am. This poor kid. I guess I never really thought about what it must have been like to be gay in an era where it was considered a mental disorder. What a relief that this seems to have changed a great deal in public perception.
I like listening to the stories about his crazy family and the odd balls in his neighborhood. I also found it strange that while his father seemed to be a jerk in some ways he was actually very supportive in others. I don't know many fathers who would take their child daily, for 2 weeks, to where a show was being taped, in the off chance of glimpsing a star. Or who would remain in poverty to send their child to psychoanalysis.
Anyway, it's worth the listen.

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Loved it.

Picked this up on the Daily Deal. Had not expected to find it so interesting/enjoyable. One of my two favorite books this year - keep thinking about it. And the author reads it himself . . . always a bonus.

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good story

I liked learning about the psychology used in earlier times. I had not understood how being gay was a disease rather than just the way one is. This helped me to understand a little more

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Entertaining story

I liked this story. It has a lot of interesting characters and also humor. It is based on the author’s life so it is not fictional. I would recommend it.

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Enjoyable!

Not what I expected, but definitely worth the listen. This book was insightful from the child male prospective, enjoyed.

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Wow!

This was an interesting ride into another world! As a straight white woman this was completely different from anything I might experience in my life. I loved the ending. #LGBTQ #ComingOfAge

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A great read

This was an engrossing memoir with some of the best writing I've encountered in a long time. Gaines skillfully weaves the story of his family, his childhood, and the challenges of being a gay teenager in the 1960s.
My only disappointment is that Mr. Gaines has not written any other books about his own life. I will be keeping my eyes out for his work in the future.

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Great Context Overshadows the Central Story

Stephen Gaines has a remarkable story to tell, and he has an engaging voice to tell it with.

As a teenager growing up in early 1960s Jewish Brooklyn, he has no clear idea how to deal with being gay and, in despair, tries to kill himself. As a consequence, he winds up in an upscale psychiatric hospital, one where Marilyn Monroe was recently treated. He’s essentially a child among assorted minor celebrities, a Jew among mostly WASPs, and a Brooklynite among the Manhattan elite. It’s a great fish-out-of-water experience, and the strongest part is unquestionably the color he sketches for the contrast.

The trouble here, as I see it, is that the context ultimately overwhelms the story. I’m a sucker for glimpses into that not-so-distant Jewish world, and Gaines delivers character studies of his neighbors and his bizarre family. (A highlight is his grandfather, a gentle man who seems irresistible to women. He has his wife, Gaines’s grandmother, his long-time paramour, who becomes the grandmother’s business partner and a key presence in raising him, and then he has his 40-years-younger final girlfriend with whom he mostly but not always lives in his final years.) He delivers as well in the vignettes around the people he meets in the hospital, most memorably the forgotten Broadway producer and theater reviewer Richard Halliday, a man best-known today as the second husband of actress Mary Martin. His stepson, actor Larry Hagman, hated him so much that he wrote in his own memoir about fantasies of killing him.

So the milieu is terrific and the characters memorable. They are so terrific that the central story, the place we begin, gets buried. Gaines is confused about how he feels and about how he should act on his feelings. He tries to kill himself by running his forearms through a glass window, and it’s heartbreaking. He’s skeptical of the treatments he receives in the hospital – a caring and thoughtful Freudian psychoanalyst thinks he can “cure” his homosexuality – but he does indeed become more aware of himself. The deeply troubled teen grows into a man whom I’d be happy to know, a man I get to know, in small part, through this book.

But we don’t get to hear the motivating story here. If it begins with the suicide attempt, the implication is we’ll learn how he came to grips with the crisis that precipitated it. Instead, Gaines’s story takes a backseat for most of this memoir to the characters he encounters. There’s a final chapter, one that feels almost disconnected from the rest of the book, when he catches us up on what’s followed, but it moves too quickly for real satisfaction.

I enjoyed this, but, to paraphrase its title, it feels as if he put several things ‘first,’ several things before the story he seemed initially to be telling.

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Wonderful

Loved this book! Laugh out loud funny at times and very touching and thoughtful. Perfect narration by the author.

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  • Colin McIntosh
  • 08-14-16

Fascinating

This was such a fascinating book. Maybe for me as I had just finished a bio of Mary Martin and there is a lot re her vile husband but the whole story is enthralling and shocking that this all took place and the treatments. Highly recommend this as its such an honest raw account told with humour and honesty