Sunrise by Robert Crooke, Paperback | Barnes & Noble


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by Robert Crooke

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Sunrise is a tale of illusion, loss and renewal in a tragic age. Set in Manhattan, and in the fashionable beach towns of Long Island's East End, it follows the interwoven lives of three friends from the late 1960s to the present-exploring the confluence of art, commerce, politics and celebrity.

With its perfectly rendered physical setting, Sunrise draws readers


Sunrise is a tale of illusion, loss and renewal in a tragic age. Set in Manhattan, and in the fashionable beach towns of Long Island's East End, it follows the interwoven lives of three friends from the late 1960s to the present-exploring the confluence of art, commerce, politics and celebrity.

With its perfectly rendered physical setting, Sunrise draws readers into the reality of place and the universality of myth in a daring, Modernist style.

Stephen Dahl, the narrator of Sunrise, is a troubled child of the 60s, an expatriate American author living in Paris, an alcoholic who has stopped drinking but failed to recover his spiritual equilibrium. Watching the horrors of September 11th from his Paris apartment, he is struck by renewed patriotism which vanishes quickly as America plans to invade Iraq. But he is called home in the Spring of 2003 by the death of his former best friend and by the chance to see his former lover, the widow of his old friend. Thus begins Stephen's journey to a past that reveals complex layers of moral and spiritual responsibility to his country, his countrymen and himself. Stephen confronts an uncertain future by accepting the moral limits of despair and the power of compassion.

Editorial Reviews

The Litchfield County Times
The parallels between the literary classic "The Great Gatsby" and Robert Crooke's new book, "Sunrise," are obvious. Most obviously, both are prototypical American tales that take place on Long Island's lavish East End. But under the surface, each deals with complex ethical and moral concerns of characters hoping for reconciliation during this country's more restless eras. According to Mr. Crooke, paying tribute to F. Scott Fitzgerald's signature piece was not his intent. "The [Gatsby comparisons] kind of developed over the course of multiple drafts," explained Mr. Crooke. "I knew there was a similarity there with Long Island and its locale, but as I was writing it and redrafting it, suddenly I felt one of my favorite books coming to the forefront. I did it subconsciously, at first, but if I'm going to pay homage to someone, why not one of my favorite authors." "The Great Gatsby," of course, is a tale of the celebratory "Roaring 20s," in which the elite prospered. On Long Island, narrator Nick Carraway watches as little attention is given to the laws of prohibition, or for that matter, morality. Written more than 80 years ago, it has since become standard text in undergraduate English classrooms across America. Following a similar arc, "Sunrise" is mostly situated in the same locale, but flashes back to a different time-the turbulent 60s and 70s. The story begins in present day Paris, post-Sept.11, as the narrator, American expatriate and recovering alcoholic Stephen Dahl, tries to deal with his home country's recent tragedy. Shortly afterward, he finds himself back in his suburban New York home, called there by the death of his former best friend, whose widow happens to be anex-lover of Stephen's. From there, readers are brought back to his youth and learn of a past laden with complex questions of personal and national responsibilities.
—Jack Coraggio
Connecticut Muse
Robert Crooke's clean, spare narrative proves that less can be more. He occasionally allows himself some purple prose but the impact and enormity of his characters' actions and their wider parallels are all the more resonant for the uncluttered narrative that describes them. In Sunrise, Crooke offers not only a story about individuals but also a wider view on America's sense of self. The narrative's early reference to The Great Gatsby speaks for the then and now of society: "Fitzgerald had captured America in a moment's irreconcilable balance between disappointment and hope." This is what Sunrise does so well. The Montauk of Stephen's experience offers an uncomfortable sense of elitism, community, flawed loyalty and an age about to be lost which serves as a microcosm of contemporary America as it searches for meaning and identity. Sunrise shows what people are prepared to do for what they think they want and how they deal with the consequences. Like all stories that speak truly of the human condition, it stays with the reader long after the last page has been turned.
—Fiona de Merell
The Berkshire Eagle
In this book, few people are who they seem to be. This style of creation was seen in Crooke's earlier work, but not with the close-up definitions we get here. The story is so familiar that it is hard not to believe, somehow, that the reader will find himself somewhere in these pages. Perhaps it is that constant borrowing from "The Great Gatsby" that makes it seem so, or perhaps it is just that the period has become so familiar to us that we instantly define ourselves as a part of it. Whatever it is, the fact of the matter is that we do identify here, and we do recognize the urgency of the folks in their situations. While the years are important to the story, the nature of the people - clearly, stretching from the newly wealthy in the 1920s, through the eagerly social-conscious of the late 1960s, to the manic and emotional middle-aged years of the present - is what emerges first and foremost. We are universal, they say. Our story could be your story. Having the book in hand almost makes it your story. In a novel from the early part of this century, a narrator says "The novel, named for me, is not my own story." Similarly, in "Sunrise," the narrator here is not telling his own story, but in the course of time he is learning the details of his own past. He is the hero and the villain, and the villain is the villain and the hero. Crooke has brought us a slice of real life, covered in fine dialogue and vivid characterizations, living characters and situations that smack us across the face with the back of a familiar hand. It is a compelling read.
—J. Peter Bergman
East Hampton Independent
Sunrise resonates as a book about recent decades and particularly about the last few years. As the narrator Stephen Dahl notes early on about his students in Paris, where he has fled to write, "Somehow they understood that Fitzgerald had captured America in a moment's irreconcilable balance between disappointment and hope."
It becomes increasingly obvious in Sunrise that Crooke would like to prompt similar reflections about culture and politics in America after 9/11, especially as these affected and continue to affect those who grew up in the late '60s, many of whom defined themselves by the music of the time-lyrics appear extensively throughout the book, articulating characters' experience with love and loss.
Crooke's got an engrossing plot line, a narrative (with a shocking ending) that alternates between Stephen's present-day activities, once he's called back to the States by news of the death of a former long-time friend, and recollections that go back 30 years, when he met the oddly charming, self-inventing Jay Gatsby-like Tom Westlake in college.
Though at times too much diary-like detail seems to infuse itself into Stephen's remembered conversations, nostalgia trumping selectivity and the fact that toward the end, the novel references itself-Stephen has begun writing a book about his Montauk past to be called . . . Sunrise-autobiographical impulses do not an autobiography make. And if Sunrise seems to approximate memoir, the only valid concern for the reader should be the way in which Crooke organizes theme, character, setting and plot.
With the exception of a couple of didactic passages-screeds against current administration policies abroad andknocks at how "rational land-use arguments" on the East End have failed to prevent sleepy villages being turned into white plastic, chrome and glass dune blight-Sunrise sustains reader curiosity about how Stephen turned his life around.
Once a promising guy, but aimless alcoholic "out of control," he manages eventually to affect "a course of quiet comfort and modest accomplishment." Crooke also seeds his tale with hints of further dark revelations, even after major illusions are unveiled.
The overall theme is significant-the state of the country after 9/11, for individuals and for the nation. Considerations include thoughts about "the value of friends in a careless life," art and celebrity, and, of course, for those who know and love the east End, particularly East Hampton, the challenge inherent in the critical observation that a still beautiful area, where once there was a "seamless blend of farmers, artists, and investment bankers," has become "a jumble of tourists, Fifth Avenue stores, and traffic."
In Fitzgerald's day, as Stephen observes, the conviction was "there was something more important than any single person," and that "betraying the ideal, the community, was the worst of sins." But for Stephen's generation, the '60s, failure was "betraying yourself." Though Sunrise does not say so overtly, it implies that a country's past, like an individual's past, may offer up values worth reconsidering.
His book is called Sunrise, Stephen says, because "The sun rises first on the East End." But, Hemingway notwithstanding, the full phrase, from Ecclesiastes, may be what Stephen has more deeply in mind at the end of the novel as he gazes out at the sea at sunset-"The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to his place where he arose."
—Joan Baum
East Hampton Press & Southampton Press
Mr. Crooke's plot is well-crafted and suspenseful. His prose style is uncluttered and unpretentious, yet he evokes sympathy for his conflicted characters. All three main personalities are multi-dimensional. Tom Westlake is capable of great altruism, yet Stephen later sees him as a destroyer. Alexis has traits of selfishness-"freedom" is her stated goal-but also great loyalty. Stephen's journey into self-knowledge and sobriety is told in a moving, never sentimentalized manner.
In the words of both Alexis and Stephen, life and art contain "hope and disappointment." The future can come into focus only by understanding both. The author draws a parallel between Stephen's need to face decisions that cannot be undone and the nation's need, post 9/11, to look to its moral conscience. Mr. Crooke's talent and skill invite the reader to think about larger issues while enjoying a good story.

The novel's title-"Sunrise"-is the name of a principal highway on Long Island, and a metaphor for new beginnings, new lives. Mr. Crooke, who now lives in Connecticut, began his career as a sports reporter for the Long Island Press, and served as North American press spokesman for the Reuters international news agency.

Given the author's knowledge of the territory, it would have been nice if the book jacket photo showed one of Montauk's characteristic stone breakwaters instead of an unfamiliar pier with a pavilion at its sea-end. There are no such dislocations in the text. All through the novel, Mr. Crooke portrays the East End with all of its heartrending contradictions: natural beauty tainted by urban sprawl; glorious sunrises over motel parking lots littered with beercans.
—Barbara Goldowsky
Kirkus Discoveries
Crooke offers a dark tale of alcoholism, recklessness and the less-attractive aspects of the 1960s as they played out one long-ago summer in the beach town of Montauk, N.Y. Narrator Stephen Dahl returns to Montauk, on the eastern end of Long Island, after an absence of some three decades to attend the funeral of an old friend. It's not an easy return. Montauk was where he drank himself to oblivion on more nights than he can remember, if he remembers those nights at all. The portrayal of alcoholism here is scorching and grim and rises off the page like poisonous fumes. Stephen is now on the wagon, and with the aid of his old lover, Alexis Jordan-who ultimately dumped Stephen, thanks mostly to the booze, and took up with his old pal Tom Westlake, now deceased-he revisits his sodden behavior that summer. Some serious dirty laundry emerges slowly and gratifyingly by Crooke, who is a good hand at quietly trolling hints and insinuations before the reader, then letting them pop like a jack-in-the-box. Along the way, Crooke has Stephen explore how his behavior reflected the drearier byproducts of the counterculture: the "dead end of celebrity, simplistic religion, crackpot political theories, and economic binges and hangovers." Stephen is calling himself to take honest account of grave mistakes, and the metaphor's embrace reaches all the way to the ruinous, fear-fueled adventurism of American foreign policy. These various and disparate critiques have the potential of being forced upon one another, but here they have a canny, house-of-mirrors quality, bouncing and echoing before taking their place in the puzzle. Only rarely does Crooke overreach-of a Montauk "at the end of the road where timewas suspended and all bets were off," which is more sound than substance- for his writing has a natural sense of timing; the threads of the story come together with ease and deep discomfort. Crooke gives radioactive potency to Stephen's many false steps, and they may well cook his newly reformed goose.

Product Details

iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.48(d)

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