Luncheonette: A Memoir
  • Luncheonette: A Memoir
  • Luncheonette: A Memoir

Luncheonette: A Memoir

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by Steven Sorrentino

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"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… See more details below


"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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this winsome memoir, likely to be compared to the work of David Sedaris, former HarperCollins publicity executive Sorrentino makes a different kind of imprint on the publishing world. His memoir recounts his accidental "career" as a luncheonette manager and short-order cook. More important, the book pays tribute to the author's beloved father, Clint, luncheonette owner, politician, and music lover. Sorrentino's unlikely adventure begins on Christmas Eve 1980, when he travels home to New Jersey from his thrilling new life as a gay man and struggling performer in New York City. The triumphant holiday visit morphs into a lengthy sojourn when Clint succumbs to paralysis from a rare neurological disease. Ever the loving, dutiful son, Sorrentino remains at home to run the luncheonette for his wheelchair-bound father. As months turn into years, Sorrentino sinks into depression while, remarkably, his father weathers major adversities with nary a complaint. Ultimately, Clint's sterling example inspires Sorrentino to take charge of his own life. This loving, humorous portrait, resplendent with colorful diner characters and witty malapropisms, is highly recommended for all public libraries.-Lynne F. Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., Villanova, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Just when debut memoirist Sorrentino was thrilled with his new life in New York City, his father became paralyzed from the chest down, and the author returned to his conservative little hometown. Sorrentino offers a very tender story, if increasingly fraught, about the Christmas he went to spend with his family in West Long Branch, New Jersey, after which he didn't return to his NYC apartment for four years. That Christmas Eve was back in 1980, when the writer was 24. Whether or not a quarter-century distance has beveled his perspective, his sense of humor, and responsibility seems abiding and indelible. The Sorrentinos were a delightfully functional family, a liberal bunch in a Republican town, who had worked hard, had their ups and downs, but kept an even keel and maintained strong ties to a wide and local network of kin. Steven decides to stay and run the family's luncheonette, a recent purchase of his father's after his investment business went kaput in the downturn of the 1970s. It was a sacrifice, but never a question. Sorrentino had just moved to New York, where he was as happy as he could possibly be pursuing his career in musical theater and his gay love life. (His sexual orientation was apparently always an open secret in the family, though the rest of the town "didn't seem to notice that the Sorrentino boy [then age eight] was having a little too much fun in his mother's sling-backs.") In tones warm, tart, and exasperated, Sorrentino chronicles his days getting to know the business and its regulars, watching as his father's health swung up, then deteriorated, and assuming civic responsibilities while suffering the loss of career and love. These losses blossomed into a very realcrisis, yet in recounting them 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. Regional author tour. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky/Stuart Krichevsky Agency

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)

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