William Brammer Wirt Williams - Essay

Wirt Williams

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

William Brammer has an authentic, even lyrical, writing talent. He has as intimate a knowledge of operational politics as any serious American novelist…. And he is only 30 years old. Situated as he is at the confluence of natural gifts, experience and youth, it would seem inescapable that his political novel would be truly impressive. Instead, it turns out to be no more than interesting and promising—though it will surely rank strongly among the year's first novels…. The disappointment comes from a weak grasp of fictional form. In the three installments which make up the book (each, actually, is a short novel in itself), the author shows a sense of the architecture of the novel in only one, the last….

The pin that holds them together is a wise, witty, vulgar, almost saintly superman named Arthur Fenstemaker, the Governor. All through the first novel, "The Flea Circus," float legislators and editors, beautiful women and bemused liberals, as though in some unfocused, dimly remembered dream. The effect is striking, though the structure is slender….

In "Room Enough to Caper," the good, wily Governor tricks his young appointee to the Senate into seeking a full term by election. The last installment, "Country Pleasures" is the least ambitious and yet perhaps the most successful of the three. The beautiful, blonde ex-wife of the Governor's assistant, Jay McGown, has cheese-caked her way to film stardom. She is thrown with her former husband when she tries to get him to return to her. As Jay is driven to a crisis in his personal life, the Governor is driven to one in his political career by Federal integration rulings.

Mr. Brammer's great gift is his ability to communicate the poignancy of the passing moment, the sweet sadness of the flight of love and time. When he learns to project vision as well as surfaces, he will be a writer of real consequence.

Wirt Williams, "A Political Triptych," in The New York Times Book Review, March 12, 1961, p. 33.