Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

On the Joy and Heartbreak of Nick Flynn

I just finished reading Nick Flynn’s memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. It’s poetic and genre-bending and satisfying and incredibly revealing–almost to the point of not wanting to know more. You’re reading about the alcoholic descent and endless grappling of Flynn as he tries to make sense of his mother’s suicide and his father’s absence; the wrecked relationships and alcohol abuse along the way are cringe-worthy, like the ubiquitous car crash you can’t take your eyes off. It’s one of those books that you hold in your hands, pages dwindling, as you find yourself battling the sadness that comes with a good book coming to an end.

At its core Suck City is the story of Flynn’s absent father, a man who was absent for the first part of Flynn’s life. Flynn Sr. went from success as an automobile salesman to a bank robber and self-styled a beatnik. The two men, despite living in Boston most of their lives, seem to circle each other (intentional or not) without meeting. Flynn’s job as a counselor at The Pine Street Inn, the area’s largest homeless shelter, brings him face-to-face with his father, who seeks a place to stay. This summary, however, does not do justice to the beauty of this memoir.

Most memoirs seem to dwell in maudlin melodrama or shocking details. While there are some revealing facts (Flynn’s attempts at coke or heroin, for example), this is a story of a non-existent, yet longed-for, father-son relationship.

In one of the most experimental and surreal passages, Flynn gives us a psychedelic play/dream sequence in which King Lear meets Santa Claus and the facts of Flynn’s family. Other things of beauty are Flynn’s descriptions of a mountain of donated clothes, a litany of phrases drunks utter, and a momentary reprieve in his childhood when he watched the World Cup with his brother and his suicidal mother. That knack for brutal honesty comes in handy as Flynn quietly draws into his life.

I wish I could put Nick Flynn‘s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City in the hands of all those people reading the Twilight books. Why can’t books worth reading find their way onto the best-seller lists instead of crap about vampires and werewolves?

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Filed under: boston, homelessness, literature, writing, , , , , , , , ,

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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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