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Ben Sonnenberg

Ben Sonnenberg (1936–2010) was born into a wealthy family in Manhattan. His father was one of the preeminent publicists of prewar America, and their Gramercy Park mansion often served as a salon for celebrities from the creative and business worlds. A precocious and stubborn student, Sonnenberg never graduated high school and instead traveled to Europe, where he befriended W. S. Merwin and Ted Hughes, and worked briefly for the CIA. In 1963 he wrote a play, Jane Street; in 1964 he married Wendy Adler. After their daughter, Susanna, was born in 1965, the family returned to New York, where Jane Street ran for four nights off Broadway. Following the death of his father, Sonnenberg used his inheritance to found the literary journal Grand Street in 1981, which he ran out of his Upper West Side apartment and in which he published work by, among others, Alice Munro, Edward Said, Anne Carson, and Christopher Hitchens. That same year he married the writer Dorothy Gallagher. Suffering complications from multiple sclerosis, he sold Grand Street to Jean Stein for one dollar in 1990. In 1994, Sonnenberg was named an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.