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Luncheonette: A Memoirby Steven Sorrentino
Synopses & Reviews
Steven Sorrentino had moved from West Long Branch, New Jersey, to New York City, with dreams of finding love and Broadway stardom. Venturing out of the closet and feeling free (at last!) from small-town America, Steven found his niche among the quirky and kindred spirits of the city's musical theater hopefuls.
But on Christmas Eve of 1980, just after Steven arrived in New Jersey to celebrate the holidays, his father contracted a sudden and rare neurological disorder that left him paralyzed. Stepping up to the plate and back into the closet, Steven returned to West Long Branch to help the family out and to take over Clint's Corner, his father's luncheonette. He soon found himself at the grill flipping porkroll (the unofficial state meat) and serving a counter full of eccentrics including Googie the Gizmo, Half Cup Harold, and Steven's old high-school jock crush, Brent Jamison. And always at his side was the most colorful of them all, Dolores, the crusty head waitress with coke-bottle glasses, a wayward wig, and a particular flair for butchering the English language. From this unusual post, Steven watched as his ailing father refused to accept defeat.
Confined to a wheelchair, yet determined and optimistic, Clint Sorrentino ignored all the medical setbacks and even managed to further his own career in local politics. Yet for Steven, the more his father triumphed over the obstacles, the more his own life seemed to stall.
Guilty, confused, and stuck behind the counter, Steven made a shocking and desperate decision — not knowing that he was about to stumble upon the secret of his father's resilience. Steven had returned home to save his father, but in the end, his father saved him.
An insightful, bitingly hilarious, and poignant debut, Luncheonette is an uplifting reminder of the unexpected lessons life brings and of the inspiration we find in the least likely places.
"Aspiring actor Sorrentino's plans of making it big in New York are squelched when his father contracts a debilitating illness that paralyzes him from the chest down. Dutifully taking over dad's role as proprietor of Clint's Corner, a New Jersey shore luncheonette, Sorrentino goes from being a 24-year-old gay performer to a firmly closeted, burger-flipping 'Jersey Boy.' While his loyalty to his Italian-American family is strong, as time passes and his father begins to recover, Sorrentino finds himself increasingly cemented in his new life, watching his ambitions fade as he struggles with his identity and sexuality in a parochial town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Sorrentino does a nice job portraying the diner's quirky cast of characters (including a Polish waitress who swears like a sailor in several languages and regulars like 'Half-Cup Harold'), yet despite these amusements, he eventually becomes so caught between family responsibilities and his own dreams that depression sets in. With the help of therapy and the sale of the restaurant, Sorrentino finally overcomes his inertia and helplessness, regains an identity and a life back in New York, celebrating his father's life (as well as mourning his death, 16 years after his paralysis). The grand resolution seems tacked-on, but the book's core struggle is poignant. Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (Feb. 1) Forecast: Sorrentino's position as former head of HarperCollins's publicity department should help this otherwise low-profile book get media coverage." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Sorrentino offers a very tender story, if increasingly fraught....in recounting [his crises] the author manages to wink at the past rather than stare at it. Describes with a natural ease the vigilance necessary to keep the faith, value life, and live in the present." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] winsome memoir, likely to be compared to the work of David Sedaris....This loving, humorous portrait, resplendent with colorful diner characters and witty malapropisms, is highly recommended." Library Journal
This hilarious, unpredictable, and deeply moving memoir reveals the unexpected life lessons a son learns when his father's sudden illness forces him to return to small-town America to work at the family's luncheonette.
About the Author
Steven Sorrentino has worked in public relations since 1987 where he began as a publicist for Harper & Row, staying with that company during several transformations and becoming Vice President and Executive Director of Publicity at HarperCollins Publishers. He directed campaigns for numerous #1 New York Times bestsellers as Bryan Burrough and John Helyar's Barbarians at the Gate; Oliver North's Under Fire; Newt Gingrich's To Renew America; and Margaret Thatcher's Downing Street Years and Path to Power. He managed the original publicity campaign for John Gray's phenomenally successful Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Sorrentino has worked with a wide array of controversial and political figures; film, television, and sports stars; modern-day spiritualists and literary authors. These include the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Wayne Gretzky, Marianne Williamson, Bob Colacello, Jay Leno, Cybill Shepherd, Valerie Harper, Eric Bogosian, Gary Hart, Christopher Darden, Donald Spoto, Leon Uris, Dan Quayle, Bobbie Ann Mason, Armistead Maupin, Thomas Moore, and others. One of the highlights of his career in PR was creating a campaign for one particular Hollywood memoir and then taking it on the road with its author: the legendary Ginger Rogers.
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