View All Posts
Posted on January 28, 2010 at 1:24 PM by Lisa Miyako
Nick Flynn's Another Bullshit Night In Suck City is a masterfully-written, gutpunch of a memoir that reverberates long after reading the last page. This is not your conventional memoir but an exploration of a son's attempt to understand a father he comes to know through an unusual circumstance: Flynn works at a homeless shelter in Boston; his father is homeless. His mother killed herself when he was an adolescent.
Flynn's is not a chronological, linear narrative but an inventive account that bounces back and forth on the timeline and uses creative literary devices, such as poetry and script formats - in limited but very effective doses. And his language, Flynn's storytelling, is mesmerizing, captivating, calls you on and on. Meanwhile, the story itself is hard and gritty and deep and poignant and touches on wider historical events that inform Flynn's perspective.
In 1974, for instance, Patty Hearst is kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) who want Patty's father to give "every 'Californian in need' seventy dollars' worth of 'quality' food." Hearst complies, but Patty is not released. Then she is seen on television, robbing a bank with the SLA. Flynn writes that the experts "all say it is likely she's been brainwashed, likely she's doing this in order to survive, that she's reached a state of transference. But to me it seems obvious-to risk so much for one meal, who wouldn't be charmed?"
This memoir, ostensibly about Flynn, is a reaching out to his father, to tell his story. Flynn writes: "If I could hold my father in my hands, bring him under the light-his stories are all there, each story is inside him. The transparency of the word, the transparency of the story, he is constructed entirely of the stories he tells, like the scaffolding around a building still unbuilt. The story of how to rob a bank. The story of sleeping on a bench. The story of his father inventing the life raft. The story of my mother, the love of his life." The son illuminates the father, and shines the light on himself.
This is a worthy story. Wholeheartedly recommended.
Reviewed by Lisa Miyako
Tag(s): "Another Bullshit Night In Suck City" "Nick Flynn" memoir gritty non-fiction "book review"
before leaving your comment