Summary and book reviews of Sunny's Nights by Tim Sultan

Sunny's Nights

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

by Tim Sultan

Sunny's Nights by Tim Sultan
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Feb 2016, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick

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About this Book

Book Summary

Imagine that Alice had walked into a bar instead of falling down the rabbit hole. In the tradition of J. R. Moehringer's The Tender Bar and the classic reportage of Joseph Mitchell, here is an indelible portrait of what is quite possibly the greatest bar in the world—and the mercurial, magnificent man behind it.

The first time he saw Sunny's Bar, in 1995, Tim Sultan was lost, thirsty for a drink, and intrigued by the single bar sign among the forlorn warehouses lining the Brooklyn waterfront. Inside, he found a dimly lit room crammed with maritime artifacts, a dozen well-seasoned drinkers, and, strangely, a projector playing a classic Martha Graham dance performance. Sultan knew he had stumbled upon someplace special. What he didn't know was that he had just found his new home.

Soon enough, Sultan has quit his office job to bartend full-time for Sunny Balzano, the bar's owner. A wild-haired Tony Bennett lookalike with a fondness for quoting Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett, Sunny is truly one of a kind. Born next to the saloon that has been in his family for one hundred years, Sunny has over the years partied with Andy Warhol, spent time in India at the feet of a guru, and painted abstract expressionist originals. But his masterpiece is the bar itself, a place where a sublime mix of artists, mobsters, honky-tonk musicians, neighborhood drunks, nuns, longshoremen, and assorted eccentrics rub elbows. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly transforming city, Sunny's Nights is a loving and singular portrait of the dream experience we're all searching for every time we walk into a bar, and an enchanting memoir of an unlikely and abiding friendship.

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, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Woven into the story of Sultan's enchantment with Sunny's (he eventually left his job at the Paris Review offices in Manhattan to work as a bartender at Sunny's once the place began opening more regularly) is the story of the rise, fall, and gentrification of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a once-seedy and crime-filled backlot to Manhattan's glittering cinemascape. There is an elegiac quality to the last few chapters as we watch a once truly unique bar become the newly christened destination for a crowd of hipsters re-discovering Brooklyn's neglected neighborhoods in the last decade.   (Reviewed by James Broderick).

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Media Reviews

USA Today

An affectionate portrait of the idiosyncratic Sunny’s Bar in the Red Hook waterfront neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Newsday

Sultan’s love of Red Hook shines through, and it’s hard not to be swept along on the ebb and flow of his emotions... Sultan’s book is, among other things, a meditation on the fragility of the moment and the passage of time... Wistful, funny and biting, Sunny’s Nights rewards you with its evocation of a certain place in time and, as Sultan calls him, ‘the most original man I have ever met.’

New York Post, “Required Reading”

Sultan finds Sunny . . . a real character, a poet, a cinephile, a philosopher, bluegrass maestro and (Rheingold) beer server.

The New York Times Book Review

Fantastic ... [Tim Sultan takes] material that might seem familiar and [mixes] a perfect, insightful cocktail: full-bodied, multitextured and delicious. ... Simply beautiful.

Kirkus Reviews

Sultan has a terrific subject in Sunny and his semilegendary watering hole, but the approach is too cute.

Booklist

Beautifully wrought, evocative ... an indelible portrait of an unusual man and a nearly forgotten part of NYC.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [A] polished, affecting look at remarkable barkeep Sunny Balzano ... In elegant prose, Sultan deploys laconic humor, an instinct for telling details, a taste for eccentricity, and above all, clear-eyed compassion for our all-too-human failings.

Author Blurb Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers
Sunny's Nights is more than an elegy for a bar and a neighborhood - it's also a vivid and loving portrait of the larger-than-life eccentric who gave the bar its name and its spirit, and a moving memoir about friendship and finding a home. Tim Sultan is a wonderful writer, wry and observant, with a sly sense of humor and a big heart.

Author Blurb Robert Sullivan, author of My American Revolution
Tim Sultan tells the terrific story of how one dark and raggedy waterfront bar changed his life. It is a wonderfully drawn portrait of the artist as barkeep.

Author Blurb Howard Frank Mosher, author of God's Kingdom
This beautifully written chronicle of a disappearing place and its unforgettable people reveals how, sometimes, friendship endures when everything else, except perhaps the memories, is gone.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

A Veteran Writer's Ode to His Favorite Watering Hole

There are two fairly common ways to memorialize someone: Raise a drink and propose a toast, or pick up a pen and write a tribute. But a handful of great writers have combined those two impulses and created memorable works that lionize their favorite drinking establishments. From Dickens' historic The George Inn in London to Hemingway's celebrated Paris haunt, The Dingo, some well-known writers have occasionally turned their literary focus to the publican's art.

McSorley's Old Ale House Perhaps no writer has been more adept at capturing the decadent charm of a local watering hole than Joseph Mitchell, a New Yorker staff writer who immortalized a Greenwich Village pub called McSorley's Old Ale House in a series of articles in the 1940s and 50s – many of ...

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