cover image Now Beacon, Now Sea: A Son’s Memoir

Now Beacon, Now Sea: A Son’s Memoir

Christopher Sorrentino. Catapult, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-646-22042-7

National Book Award finalist Sorrentino (Trance) recounts the complicated history of his family in this raw and intimate memoir. He starts in 2017 with the discovery of his elderly mother’s body in her Brooklyn apartment weeks after her death, leaving him to wonder, “What kind of son are you?” From here, he walks readers through the unhappy household in which he came of age in the ’60s, where anger was a “matrilineal gift, engraved on my genes.” He charts his mother’s discarded racial identity—from the birth certificate that identified her as Black to the name change devised to distance herself from her Puerto Rican heritage—and describes his parents’ lifelong devotion to isolation, routine, and disdain for the outside world. Running parallel to this story is that of Sorrentino’s self-discovery, as a young artist in New York who found purpose in books and punk rock, before becoming a writer. As evidenced by the Samuel Beckett-inspired title, Sorrentino’s artistic influences run heady—many of them inherited from his father, the novelist Gilbert Sorrentino—and while the pagelong paragraphs can occasionally feel exhausting, they’re redeemed by the engrossing world he builds in lucid detail. Even at its darkest, this rich narrative shines. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Sept.)