William Brammer Critical Essays

Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

William Brammer 1930?–1978

(Also wrote under the name Billy Lee Brammer) American novelist.

Brammer's literary output consists of three short novels published collectively under the title The Gay Place (1961). Set in a fictional southwestern state which critics identify as Texas, the three stories—The Flea Circus, Room Enough to Caper, and Country Pleasures—are loosely based on Brammer's experiences as a senatorial aide to Lyndon B. Johnson during the 1950s. Although each short novel centers on the career of a different young politician, connecting all three works is the character Governor Arthur Fenstemaker. Fenstemaker, who is said to be modeled after Johnson, is a heroic figure who stands in contrast to the self-doubting young politicians.

Although The Gay Place was favorably received when first published, it did not receive the widespread recognition that most critics expected. Reissued posthumously in 1978, the work elicited renewed critical appraisal. Critics generally agree that the primary strengths of The Gay Place are Brammer's witty and elegant prose style, his ability to recreate the dynamics and complexities of political campaigns, and his realistic depiction of the manners and mores of an elite stratum of society during a distinctive era of American history. Although some critics view Brammer's portrayal of Fenstemaker as overly sympathetic, others contend that his well-developed characters and skillful narration make The Gay Place a work of exceptional merit among political novels.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 77-80 [obituary].)