Generally, this blog does not review books; however, exceptional works may prompt exceptions to the general order of things, where relevance of subject and beauty of personality may coalesce to consider a slight change of venue. The work itself will neither become a masterpiece nor a conversation focus beyond a generation or two, as the world it describes is quickly fading into the sunset of eccentricity and scarcity of understanding.
Tim Sultan’s book (and from the jacket cover, it appears to be his first one at that), Sunny’s Nights, is a mixture of reportage, love of character and annotation of provincial myth. It somewhat follows a format of modern trends in such novels: alternating upon a spectrum of the microcosm of life (Sunny’s, the extended family, and the author’s own) to wider philosophical insights (history of the neighborhood, cultural changes from the turn of the last century into the 20th and to modernity) portending of the macro-impact of a lost and fading relevance; but it is the author’s love of the main character (Sunny), the loss of humanity (through shared anonymity of a genuine speakeasy) and the wit, humor and sharing of stories, which makes for a work beyond an ordinary read.
The author is quite obviously a good listener (to the multiple tales of life and love as told by Sunny); his love of words reflects the warmth of camaraderie he feels for his characters; and his own insertion as a participating protagonist never detracts from the trilogy of subjects: the place (the bar which is discovered in the outer periphery of societal acceptance, where the characters meet and enjoy the company of each other); the people (Sunny, his heritage, and the people who gather at the bar); and the growing loss of community with the encroachment of technology and cultural upheaval.
It has all of the ingredients for the making of a quiet work of art, as it reveals the best of any great story — a main character of complex fortitude. For, in the end, every book worth reading should provide for an understanding of complexity, human failure and microcosm of achievement, and not necessarily in that order.
Tim Sultan’s work, Sunny’s Nights, is an enjoyable read at worst, and at best, a recognition that in the end, life fails to mean much unless one listens carefully and plods along searching for the company of community. And, in the end, isn’t that the same for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who seek an alternate venue when a medical condition arises and the Federal or Postal employee must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset?
When the medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties, the loss of a similar trilogy occurs: the place (one’s position with the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service); the people (coworkers and friends developed over the many years through work and community of contact); and the upheaval from the changes prompted from one’s medical condition and the inability to continue in the career of choice.
Not everything in life is limited in relevance or meaning by the circumstances of one’s present condition, and for the Federal or Postal worker who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM, taking a moment to read Tim Sultan’s book, Sunny’s Nights, may allow for a momentary time of distraction from the daily agony of a progressively deteriorating medical condition, and to help focus in the preparation of an effective Federal OPM Disability Retirement application and the challenges the Federal or Postal worker must face in the days ahead.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire