cover image Sunny’s Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World

Sunny’s Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World

Tim Sultan. Random, $27 (262p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6727-5

Through this polished, affecting look at remarkable barkeep Sunny Balzano, journalist and editor Sultan recreates a neighborhood in Brooklyn that now seems impossibly distant. After a wrong turn in 1995, Sultan ended up in desolate Red Hook and stumbled across a bar on the one night a week it was open. This first visit to Sunny’s was followed by many others as Sultan fell under the spell of both Balzano, the bar’s owner, and the deserted waterfront. Over a decade, Sultan became Sunny’s part-time barman and Boswell, recording the unique anecdotes and mannerisms of a true bohemian. As Sultan explores Red Hook’s past and present, he depicts his own life against the backdrop of rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. The genial, boisterous Balzano, a blue-collar Brooklyn native, for his part, had previously been an abstract expressionist painter and had then spent years in an ashram in India, before returning to a family bar and transforming it into a noted destination. 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. (Feb.)