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, , , , , , , , ,

Invisible People: Blogging Homeless Lives

In addition to the brief, harrowing videos and the black and white photographs on Invisible People, there’s a tagline at the top of the right column in light blue letters that will grab your attention.

“Homeless Has A Name.”

Mark Horvath’s blog chronicles the stories of homeless people on the streets of L.A., Denver, and road trips across the country (including homeless people in my hometown of Boston). Horvath himself was homeless when he lost his job working in the television industry.

You’d expect stories of heartbreak and misery, which, of course, there are. But often the stories are first-person journalism at its best. In the story of Michael, whose video was at the top of the blog when I last looked, is the story of a street musician who’s been living on the streets for more than 20 years.

Michael never panhandles; instead he plays his acoustic guitar on the streets. If you listen to him, it’s not hard to imagine how he makes enough money to get by. But recently, the Denver police have been cracking down on ordinances that ban him from playing music between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., despite being quieter than the loud buses and bars around him.

To listen to Michael tell his story of a policewoman who’d been following him (literally) to lock him up reveals the injustice of our system. What crime has Michael committed living on the streets? How is jail a better option than more resources toward human and social services?

Filed under: homelessness, social justice, , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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About Me

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

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