Excerpt from Sunny's Nights by Tim Sultan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Sunny's Nights

Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World

by Tim Sultan

Sunny's Nights by Tim Sultan X
Sunny's Nights by Tim Sultan
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2018, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick
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Print Excerpt

1

Antonio

There is a corner turned, a direction taken. There is a door opened in everyone’s history that they can identify as the moment life, for better or worse, took a different course. Eve bit an apple. Dante saw Beatrice. Jack met Neal. For me, that corner, that direction, that door appeared late in the winter of 1995. The place was Red Hook, Brooklyn, the hour late, the mood desolate. I had gone to the night’s last showing of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway and while driving home from the theater, mulling over the movie, I had half-­absentmindedly continued straight where I usually took a left, slipping beneath an overpass and entering a neighborhood I knew only by its forbidding reputation. There were no other cars and no people and long stretches of shadow between the streetlamps. I drove on. Deliberately getting lost had been a pastime of mine since early childhood. I was raised by parents who only asked that I be home before sundown. By adolescence, I had lost my bearings in Laotian rice paddies, German forests, and a West African city where the practice of naming streets had not yet been widely adopted. In college one autumn, I courted a woman by inventing a game in which one of us would close our eyes and pretend to be blind, while the other made believe they were mute, and the mute person would lead the blind one by the hand on late-­evening ambles through professors’ backyards and frosty Ohio pastures. By winter, we could have written dissertations on the merits of disorientation but we merely fell in love instead.

That Friday night in Red Hook I was twenty-­seven years old, and again I found myself taking left and right turns seemingly at random, unsure whether I was sightseeing or soul-­searching. A succession of low-­slung industrial warehouses and towering fuel tanks gave way to darkened fields and from them the silhouette of an enormous building rose up, as still and monstrous as a pyramid. Bare trees bordering the road were the only living beings in sight. More turns. The pavement soon gave way to cobblestones and I slowed the car to a walking pace. Another building, vaguely Georgian, came into view. Its doorways and arched windows were sealed with bricks giving it the look of an asylum or prison or school, irrevocably shuttered. I deciphered white letters near the top: Shipyards Corporation.

Other lone structures appeared and melted away in my headlamps. I continued straight until I could go straight no farther. I had come to another corner. Conover Street, read the sign. Ahead, behind a rusty gate, stretched a barren lot and beyond that the water of the harbor shimmered faintly. To my right stood several satellite dishes, so immense they seemed capable of beaming their messages not only to New Jersey but to new planets. To the left more signs appeared in the gloom, one profoundly weird (Animal Hair Manufacturing Company) and the other weirdly spare (Bar). I pulled over and turned off the engine. I looked up and down the cobblestone street. There was no movement, no sound. I was alone and the sense of solitude that descended on me was as absolute as that usually only found in dreams. I wavered but a few moments before getting out of my car. Where bars were concerned, my spirit of inquiry always seemed to prevail over a sense of caution. I paused at the first building. Animal Hair Manufacturing Company. What could it mean? I walked on toward the next sign. Bar. I knew of a bar called the No Name Bar but I had never seen a bar that literally had no name. I had come to a place, it seemed, where the world was returning to its most elemental properties.

I took a few more tentative steps until I stood beneath one of two faded brown awnings. In between was a simple wooden door containing three peephole windows ascending from left to right as though to accommodate lookouts of varying heights. Two more storefront windows on either side of the door emanated a faint light and in this glow I could see a wooden ship and a black-­and-­white photograph of a sailor from an earlier generation resting on a ledge inside. The picture might have been taken during the Second World War.

Excerpted from Sunny's Nights by Tim Sultan. Copyright © 2016 by Tim Sultan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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