The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Aside from Arthur Fenstemaker, who paints on a broader canvas than the average human being, the characters in The Gay Place are ordinary people who are beset by the same kinds of psychic and sexual woes that bedevil everyone. Although many of the characters have governmental jobs that give them high status, they are dragged back into the world of the ordinary person by their messy personal lives. The author, Billy Lee Brammer, plays upon the differences between the reputation of such people and the reality of their lives for a shock effect that engages the reader.

The novel begins with a scene in which Roy Sherwood, a state representative, awakes from a hangover in a car parked in a grocery-store lot and begins a conversation with a truckload of Chicano children who do not understand English. This scene is both typical because of its bizarre details and indicative of Brammer’s view of his characters. He suggests that although the world judges people in terms of titles and possessions, each person is actually alone in his or her own life and struggling to communicate with an outside world that, like the children in the truck, is on another wavelength.

While Roy Sherwood, Neil Christiansen, and Jay McGown, the central figures of the three novels that make up The Gay Place, try to make sense of the political problems that Fenstemaker has given them to solve, each is more actively concerned with the woman he loves. Roy’s...

(The entire section is 490 words.)