Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Lost PropertyMemoirs and Confessions of a Bad Boy
by Ben Sonnenberg, introduction by Maria Margaronis
June 2020 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club.
Lost Property is a book of memoirs and confessions. The memoirs are of 19 Gramercy Park, once described by The New Yorker as “the greatest house . . . in private hands in New York.” Much like an ocean liner, it was commanded by the author’s immensely powerful and seductive father, Benjamin Sonnenberg Sr., the man said to have invented the modern business of public relations. The memoirs are also of a son’s aesthetic, sexual, and political education, as he both rejects his father’s influence and strives to be his equal.
The confessions in Lost Property are of Ben Sonnenberg’s sometimes absurd flight into “anarchy and sabotage”; of an infidel life in sex and politics in Europe during the Cold War (at one point he was reporting to both the CIA and East German intelligence) and in New York City in the late 1960s. Lost Property is also about marriage, children, debt, divorce, and multiple sclerosis.
A savage comedy, Lost Property is deepened by reflections upon class, culture, and illness. “At last,” writes James Salter, “a defiant life that does not end in bathos, drugs, or stacks of old newspapers, one that draws its distinction from, and ends up as, art.”
Lost Property stands up to comparison with the great romantic autobiographies, with Stendhal's Life of Henry Brulard and Musset's Confessions of a Child of the Century, with Cyril Connolly's aphoristic The Unquiet Grave and J.R. Ackerley's delicious Hindoo Holiday. Its style is just right: darting, anecdotal, slightly bemused, possessing a lilting irony that makes for compulsive readability. There is also something funny, sexy, or shocking on every page.
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
Here is the story . . . of Sonnenberg's passage from sometimes wicked child of privilege to sexual and intellectual errant to bold editor of one of the great journals of our time, Grand Street . . . [Sonnenberg] remains the magical center, the touchstone of what in many ways is the tale of a lover's progress, with its shames and virtues.
—JoAnn Wypijewski, The Nation
Lost Property chronicles the seductions and failures of a self-proclaimed poseur, a brilliant aesthete, and a son who was capable of living his life only after his father's death . . . Sonnenberg's voice is self-deprecating and proud, viciously funny and pained.
—Jane Mendelsohn, The Village Voice
Lost Property reads like a Henry James novel rewritten by Nabokov. Sonnenberg is acutely conscious of his rarity value as a Croesus-rich man of letters and uses his wealth and wealth of reading to indulge his taste for posing.
—Susannah Herbert, The Sunday Telegraph