A scion of the East Coast upper crust contends with his family, especially one particularly difficult kinsman.
Screenwriter and filmmaker von Ziegesar’s younger brother is also named Peter von Ziegesar. To be precise, they are stepbrothers, and they are called Big Peter and Little Peter. Though Big Peter had been known to occasionally inhale lines of dope, it was Little Peter who was troubled—homeless and either schizophrenic or in the thrall of Asperger’s syndrome. The story of the stepbrothers reveals how they affected and, in some ways, reflected each other’s lives. From a world of posh boarding schools, nannies and yachts, Big Peter made it to a life with a family at home in Brooklyn. Little Peter, from the same roots, simply dropped from the proud family tree. From the tribe’s compound at Peacock Point on Long Island Sound and a comfortable world, he wandered, homeless, bedding in damp cardboard boxes around the country. The folk who populate the stepbrothers’ blended families include a philandering father, imperious grande dames, distracted siblings and feckless mothers; here, too, are hip friends alien to Peacock Point’s moneyed moorings. It’s as if characters wandered out of an Auchincloss novel to encounter Kerouac’s bunch. The vivid, frequently elegiac memory piece, with a touch of imaginative reconstruction, brings to life some diverse relations and a memorable homeless protagonist in particular. The talented writer snares readers throughout with scores of pop and literary references—a device that can lead to minor gaffes as, for example, when he names “Pancho Villa” as Don Quixote’s sidekick.
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.