From New York Times–bestselling author Steven Gaines comes a wry and touching memoir of his trials as a gay teen at the famed Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic.One of These Things First
is a poignant reminiscence of a fifteen-year-old gay Jewish boy’s unexpected trajectory from a life behind a rack of dresses in his grandmother’s Brooklyn bra-and-girdle store to Manhattan’s infamous Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic, whose alumni includes writers, poets, and madmen, as well as Marilyn Monroe and bestselling author Steven Gaines.
With a gimlet eye and a true gift for storytelling, Gaines captures his childhood shtetl in Brooklyn, and all its drama and secrets, like an Edward Hopper tableau: his philandering grandfather with his fleet of Cadillacs and Corvettes; a giant, empty movie theater, his portal to the outside world; a shirtless teenage boy pushing a lawnmower; and a pair of tormenting bullies whose taunts drive Gaines to a suicide attempt.
Gaines also takes the reader behind the walls of Payne Whitney—the “Harvard of psychiatric clinics,” as Time
magazine called it—populated by a captivating group of neurasthenics who affect his life in unexpected ways. The cast of characters includes a famous Broadway producer who becomes his unlikely mentor; an elegant woman who claims to be the ex-mistress of newly elected president John F. Kennedy; a snooty, suicidal architect; and a seductive young contessa
. At the center of the story is a brilliant young psychiatrist who promises to cure a young boy of his homosexuality and give him the normalcy he so longs for.
For readers who love stories of self-transformation, One of These Things First
is a fascinating memoir in the vain of Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted
and Augusten Burroughs’s Running with Scissors
. With its novelistic texture and unflagging narrative, this book is destined to become one of the great, indelible works of the memoir genre.