Leaving the Gay Place (Hardcover)
Billy Lee Brammer and the Great Society
University of Texas Press, 9781477316351, 448pp.
Publication Date: October 17, 2018
Acclaimed by critics as a second F. Scott Fitzgerald, Billy Lee Brammer was once one of the most engaging young novelists in America. "Brammer's is a new and major talent, big in scope, big in its promise of even better things to come," wrote A. C. Spectorsky, a former staffer at the New Yorker. When he published his first and only novel, The Gay Place, in 1961, literary luminaries such as David Halberstam, Willie Morris, and Gore Vidal hailed his debut. Morris deemed it "the best novel about American politics in our time." Halberstam called it "a classic . . . a] stunning, original, intensely human novel inspired by Lyndon Johnson. . . . It will be read a hundred years from now." More recently, James Fallows, Gary Fisketjon, and Christopher Lehmann have affirmed The Gay Place's continuing relevance, with Lehmann asserting that it is "the one truly great modern American political novel."
Leaving the Gay Place tells a sweeping story of American popular culture and politics through the life and work of a writer who tragically exemplifies the highs and lows of the country at mid-century. Tracy Daugherty follows Brammer from the halls of power in Washington, DC, where he worked for Senate majority leader Johnson, to rock-and-roll venues where he tripped out with Janis Joplin, and ultimately to back alleys of self-indulgence and self-destruction. Constantly driven to experiment with new ways of being and creating--often fueled by psychedelics--Brammer became a cult figure for an America on the cusp of monumental change, as the counterculture percolated through the Eisenhower years and burst out in the sixties. In Daugherty's masterful recounting, Brammer's story is a quintessential American story, and Billy Lee is our wayward American son.