Opening Scene of Billy Lee Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

As the opening scene of "The Flea Circus" suggests, Texas's culture mirrors its landscape: a series of languishing monotony punctuated by the occasional prickle. Austin might have changed a lot since Brammer wrote the Gay Place, and in fact is one of the only places in Texas that can easily fit the title. However, Texas has changed relatively little since the 1960s. Especially in light of the ways oil and politics are in bed together, Texan politics has changed hardly at all.

If the Gay Place is treated as a biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, then the author treads into fairly treacherous waters. Governor Arthur "Goddamn" Fenstemaker is a complex character and a quintessential politician. He is at once an everyman's guy with his incessant cursing. And yet he is an arrogant politician too. With his intense hubris, Fenstemaker manipulates everyone around him, which is why the author presents the Governor's impact from the perspective of three different people. None of the protagonists are better off having worked with the Governor. In fact, the first, the state legislator, falls into a spiral of alcoholism and self-loathing. The second protagonist, the junior senator, is an even more loathsome character who is being blatantly used by the Governor. All scruples fly out the window when it comes to politics. Then the third novel shows how politics impacts the personal lives of all those involved, tearing apart marriages and destroying consciences.

The Gay Place shows how politics has become defined by selling out -- either the self or other people. Politics is a game, a perennial struggle, and has less to do with serving the public than it actually should. Politicians and those that aide them often believe in themselves and the righteousness of their work, but they seldom retain their moral scruples without hurting their careers. Blackmail and corruption are par for the course, and it almost seems as if the characters playing the political game cannot conceive of honest methods of accomplishing their goals. Politics also bleeds into personal lives, with alcoholism being a continual theme in the Gay Place. The novel is ironically titled, not just because of the lack of treatment of homosexuality but because of the fact that the capitol building in Austin is far from being a happy place in the 1960s. Therefore, Brammer's novel presents politics as a dirty game, which it most certainly is in Texas and of course in Washington as well. Although the novel is clearly about Lyndon B. Johnson, it is easy to extrapolate the core themes and apply them to other famous Texan politicians.


Brammer, B.L. (1995). The Gay Place.

Olsson, K. (n.d.). How Karen Olsson discovered the Gay Place. Retrieved online:…

Sources Used in Document:


Brammer, B.L. (1995). The Gay Place.

Olsson, K. (n.d.). How Karen Olsson discovered the Gay Place. Retrieved online:

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