Memoirs and Confessions of a Bad Boy
Ben Sonnenberg, until latterly the founder-editor of Grand Street, is an anecdotal Fort Knox replete with expensive names such as Orson Welles, Ernest Hemingway, Kenneth Tynan, Ted Hughes, Princess Margaret and Igor Stravinsky.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
The founder of Grand Street offers an erudite and prickly memoir about friendships with intellectuals and socialites, dozens of love affairs, and his struggles to emerge from the shadow of his powerful father. Sonnenberg's father was a P.R. whiz who supplemented his professional success by collecting antiques and throwing elaborate parties at his Gramercy Park mansion. Overweight as a child, Sonnenberg spoke in epigrams and vied for power with the servants. At age 15, his marathon of womanizing began when he tricked a Radcliffe graduate student into bed by telling her he was an editor of the Partisan Review. From then on, he went from woman to woman, many of whom were older and hypereducated. He tried to dazzle his psychiatrists with his knowledge of obscure analytic theory; he developed a taste for handmade suits; he traveled in Europe and made famous friends (Orson Welles, Glenn Gould, Ted Hughes). He was briefly employed by the CIA, interviewing Hungarian refugees, but his life was mostly parties, books, and women. Then, at 34, a strange series of falls began, and some time later he was diagnosed as suffering from MS. After the death of both parents left him with money to disperse, he started Grand Street and discovered the pleasure of working as an "accompanist: essential but subordinate" to other writers. Sonnenberg marshals razor-sharp anecdotes, obscure literary references, and a keen eye for the telling detail to relate his story, which is by no means always pretty. A perceptive, unapologetic self-portrait by an unrepentantly self-involved man. (Kirkus Reviews)