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.
“This is a memoir for anyone who loves Paddy Chayefsky and Hanya Yanagihara. Gaines has [written] . . . a lyrical, wry and precisely excavated book which zaps you back to that moment when you first wonder, ‘Is this really who I am? What does it mean to not be what I think I’m supposed to be? Can I change?’” —Carl Swanson, New York magazine
“Growing up gay in pre-trendy Brooklyn wasn’t always a joyride. . . . [Gaines’s] harrowing account . . . is eye opening, touching and ultimately triumphant.” —Michael Musto, author of Manhattan on the Rocks
“Dominick Dunne called Steven Gaines ‘a born storyteller.’ . . . Gaines was meant to write his own powerful, heart-wrenching, and funny life story. I could not put it down.” —Steven Petrow, The Washington Post
“A poignant and funny book that proves it does get better.” —Joy Behar, The View
“A beautiful and heart-rending testament. . . . Gaines’ irrepressible character comes through loud and clear. Leave it to him to find his way to Payne Whitney, the Harvard of mental joints, and then come out of it with honors.” —James Lecesne, writer of the Academy Award–winning Trevor
Steven Gaines is the author of Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons; The Sky’s the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan; and Simply Halston, the biography of fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick. He is the co-author of The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story of the Beatles, among other books. Gaines is a co-founder of the Hamptons International Film Festival and lives in a small hamlet on the East End of Long Island.