Peter von Ziegesar
St. Martin's Press
Peter von Ziegesar had just moved to New York and was awaiting the birth of his first child when a dark shape stepped from the looking glass of his past on to a Greenwich Village street. The Looking Glass Brother is Peter von Ziegesar’s remarkable memoir of a life that began in the exquisite enclaves of Long Island’s gilded age families and is now lived, in part, as the keeper of his homeless and schizophrenic stepbrother, Little Peter. The Looking Glass Brother is a feast of memories from one of the last, great estates on Long Island’s Peacock Point. Summers were filled with the glistening water of the Long Island Sound, pristine beaches, croquet games, butlers in formal wear serving dinners and an endless stream of cocktails. When, after a string of affairs Peter's father left his mother and remarried, the idyll was broken and several stepchildren, including Little Peter, entered von Ziegesar’s life from the looking glass of his father’s new family. Little Peter was an angelic and brilliant young boy who spiraled down during adolescence to become one more homeless man living on the street. In this big-hearted memoir, Peter von Ziegesar mixes memories of life on Peacock Point with the turbulent joys of fatherhood and the responsibility he feels for his brother, a man with the same name as his, but a man who lives a desperate and very different life.
March 12, 1995
New York City
The phone at my desk rang and a crusty, vaguely familiar, tobacco-hoarse voice crackled in my ear.
“Peter, it’s Peter. Your stepbrother,” said the voice. “Your stepbrother, Peter, who you haven’t seen in many years. Little Peter, meet Big Peter. Isn’t that funny? Anyway, it’s me.”
I looked out my window. It was a gray winter’s afternoon in Greenwich Village. I felt like I was listening to a lost recording of the Beat poets.
“Peter?” I said,
“Von Ziegesar’s cinematic eye and exceptional fluency in diverse perspectives make him an adventurously empathic biographer and audaciously candid memoirist in this piercing, thought-provoking portrait of a many-branched American family and a “looking glass” brother who reflects so many of life’s most plangent mysteries.”—Booklist
“Brotherly love is evident here, while drugs, lavish estates, suicide, divorce, philandering, and the back drop of NYC round out a touching inside view of comfort and homelessness.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“In a memorable memoir reflecting identity, von Ziegesar tells of his stepbrother’s wounds, both psychic and grievously physical, occasionally with fraternal irascibility and more frequently with candid understanding…The talented writer snares readers throughout.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This provocative looking-glass tale of two nonconformist brothers, one thriving within a nurturing family circle, the other a perpetual outsider because of mental illness, shines with emotional veracity, sensory precision, cosmic absurdity, all kinds of pain and steadfast love.”—Kansas City Star
“Elegantly constructed and written with both stringency and heart, The Looking Glass Brother fluently braids memories of an ultraprivileged childhood and the bleak realities of mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness today. Von Ziegesar has the gift for creating rounded characters, and the brother of the title comes alive as a figure of compelling, if heartbreaking, paradox, while the portrait of the clueless father is the most vivid of its kind I’ve read since This Boy’s Life.”—Eli Gottlieb, author of The Boy Who Went Away and The Face Thief
“The Looking Glass Brother is an engaging story of loyalty, love and a search for reconciliation between two brothers and an indifferent and often-callous father. Packed with the intimacies of an old-monied family, the story moves between the family's wealthy preserve on Long Island Sound and the grubby drug streets of New York City in the 1990s. It is a candid and personal story that seeks to show and understand the forces that both tear apart and draw together a father and his two sons, even as all three wrestle with their personal demons.”—Lou Ureneck, author of Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly Fishing and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska (National Outdoor Book Award Winner) and Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream and Five Acres in Maine
"There's so much to admire about von Ziegesar's writing. Perhaps most resonant is his unique lyrical voice, both brave and loving as he retells a dark, very personal story."—Stephanie LaCava, author of An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris
The Preposterous, Moving, Hilarious, and Frequently Terrifying Story of My Gilded Age Long Island Family, My Philandering Father, and the Homeless Stepbrother Who Shares My Name
Peter von Ziegesar