Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

ISBN: 0393329402
ISBN 13: 9780393329407
By: Nick Flynn

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About this book

"A stunningly beautiful new memoir . . . a near-perfect work of literature." —Stephen Elliot, San Francisco Chronicle Nick Flynn met his father when he was working as a caseworker in a homeless shelter in Boston. As a teenager he'd received letters from this stranger father, a self-proclaimed poet and con man doing time in federal prison for bank robbery. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City tells the story of the trajectory that led Nick and his father onto the streets, into that shelter, and finally to each other. .

Reader's Thoughts

Ashley

This book was interesting to me because the author is a caseworker working with homeless folks which is what I used to do. I found it unfortunate that he seems characterize all homeless folks as either drunks or psychotic (or both) when in reality people are homeless for many reasons- domestic violence, disability, illness or injury, lack of affordable housing, lack of transitional support for people leaving institutions, hospitalization or prison, youth kicked out of the house for being queer, escaping sexual or physical abuse, as well as addiction and mental health issues. I also object to his occasional use of the term "the homeless" as I find this term incredibly depersonizing. And I thought the case notes he referenced were really unprofessional. Overall I think the shelter he worked in seemed to have a real prison-like atmosphere and that my own experience was very different. I think my favorite part was the entire chapter devoted to colloquialisms for alcohol and drug use.

Colin McKay Miller

Nick Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City may have a juvenile title, but it’s still the best memoir I ever read. Most memoirs fall into two categories: 1) Sentimental, heartstring reads that tug the rig with hardships, terminal diseases, and enduring tales of lovers/family/friendship (regardless of how messed up they are); or 2) sensationalized hard knock tales of crime (and possibly redemption). Nick Flynn’s first memoir doesn’t go either of those routes. It’s cool, slightly detached, a bare murmur of heartfelt. It sounds like how you’d describe your life if you didn’t know you were writing a memoir. In the late-eighties, Flynn reunited with his estranged father, Jonathan. They are not reunited on some TV show with slow motion reaction shots. There are no tears, no hugs; just Nick’s realization that the father who left when he was a year old is an alcoholic resident at the homeless shelter where he works. There is no miracle ending; there is no great progression in their relationship. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (how Jonathan describes homeless life in Boston) is just a splice of scenes—some good, some bad, most everyday tales that could come from anyone—of a family relationship that never had any glue (especially not with Nick’s mother committing suicide when he was 22). It’s a pity it has been so long since I read it, because there were so many nuances I enjoyed, and I still think Another Bullshit Night in Suck City is the best example of Flynn’s calming, poetic voice. Four stars.

Särah Nour

Memoirs make up a tricky genre; one that is very much hit-or-miss, as the writer must tell their personal stories while making it accessible to an audience of strangers. Nick Flynn may have succeeded as a poet, with collections such as Some Ether and Blind Huber, but poetic language doesn’t cut it in the memoir department. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City is vividly written yet unmemorable; a story of triumph over tragedy that does not triumph as a creative work of nonfiction.Part of the memoir chronicles Flynn’s life from his upbringing by a single mother to his drug-addled teenage years to his adulthood as a social worker, working at the homeless shelter where he met his wayward alcoholic father, long homeless due to mental illness. The other plotline chronicles the story of his father as a creative yet aimless young man entering a marriage of convenience, abandoning his family and succumbing to illness and addiction. These plotlines intersect while alternating between past and present in a depiction of Flynn’s conflicting feelings towards his father, his own struggles with addiction, and the dispelling of his personal demons.The memoir contains an episodic and meandering narrative, partly made up of small chapters that are merely meditations on Flynn’s life. These serve little to no purpose in the story and read more as journal entries than as part of a story. Since much of the book is made up of description and not dialogue, Flynn adds a creative touch to the few scenes that contain dialogue by writing those chapters as play scripts; a method which, while interesting in theory, falls flat in its attempt to be innovative.One can easily discern from his writing that Flynn is more a poet than a novelist, in that his strengths lie more in providing imagery than in telling a coherent story. While the story in itself is ultimately forgettable, the vivid, gritty descriptions of the streets of Boston and its homeless population are more likely to make a lasting impression on readers. Flynn certainly wields the poet’s ability to take a snapshot of a moment in life and put it in writing; however, this does little to further plot development.Another Bullshit Night in Suck City contains an intriguing premise that turns up short, lost in episodic vignettes that don’t contribute to the plotlines at hand. I recommend picking up one of Flynn’s poetry books rather than this one; there’s little to be had beyond the fun title.

Kathy Lam

Nick Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City tells the story of himself as a confused young adult who struggles to avoid following his long lost father’s footsteps to homelessness and misery. The book is set at Situate, Massachusetts, also known as “Suck City”, to the city of Boston around the time of 1960’s to 1990’s, when Nick’s father, Jonathan Flynn, was a young adult to present time when Nick, himself, is a young adult. Trying his best to avoid becoming the “town’s drunk” and failure just like his father was, Nick eventually accepted the fact that his fate of ending up like his father was inevitable after a series of events and the parallelism between him and his father’s lives. Nick reflects on all the stories he had heard about his father, an inconsiderate bigot who gives himself too much credibility for his writing and criminal deeds, and became even more agitated and afraid of his “destined future”. This book addresses the realistic hardships of individuals of their family relationships, which can essentially shape the person they become and how their future will unveil. The chapter that stood out to me the most was “Two Hundred Years Ago”, which plays a significant role in this book by foreshadowing how Nick Flynn will eventually become a broke drunkard like his father and also exemplifies the main point of this whole memoir. In this chapter, Nick indicated that if the setting of his book was changed to two hundred years ago, his father’s reputation would become a huge aspect to his own life due to the fact that the people around him will view him the same way like they view his father. Nick said, “ They would say to themselves, or to whomever they were with, ”It’s his father, you know, the crazy one, the drunk,” and they couldn’t help but wonder what part of his madness had passed on to you,” suggesting that personality traits can be passed on to descendants as if it were genes. It was because of this chapter that I began to feel sympathetic towards Nick Flynn, as I start to understand how difficult it must have been to have an alcoholic as a father who had abandoned you while you were young. I’ve developed an emotional connection with this intriguing book as the years and years of Nick’s life pass by as I turn page after page, seeing how Nick grew and matured as his anger and confusion built on when he learns more and more about how terrible of a man his father was. Because of Nick’s impassiveness while telling such a depressing story, I felt like I experienced his feelings of anguish and frustration for him without him describing it. Looking through the eyes of Nick Flynn, I felt his shock when his mother committed suicide while he was having fun at college, his annoyance of Jonathan Flynn’s conceited attitude and how irrelevant and uncivilized he is, and his torment of what seems to be endless internal conflicts. There were numerous things that I have learned from this nonfiction book such as how a homeless shelter operates to the difficulties of finding a job that barely makes enough money for a poor living. Regarding to life morals, from this book, I've grasped the deeper outlook on family, irony, and frustration. It seems to me that no matter how horrible or irritating family may be, everything will always fall back together which is depicted by how Nick’s mother and brother did care for him throughout all the “bullshit” they have been through and the connection between Nick and his father does, indeed, exist no matter how many years they have spent apart. The irony of it all is how much Nick tried to avoid his father, only to coincidentally meet him as a resident of a homeless shelter where he works. It amazes me how Nick can cope with all the issues that would drive him insane, yet he hardly self-pities himself and keeps moving forward. Ultimately, the story of Nick Flynn and Jonathan Flynn is a story of overcoming their difficult relationship, struggling through harsh times with poverty and alcohol, and accepting each other’s past and moving on. It all adds up to a tale of teenage rebellion, family hardships, and arrogance. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City tells us that story very well, reminding us that each and every individual has traveled down the wrong path at least once in their life, only to realize that they screwed up and need to get back on track. I highly recommend Another Bullshit Night In Suck City because it allows readers to gain a new perspective by living through Nick Flynn’s constant issues with his father, money, and his own self. Having to encounter ten different men your mother dated and married throughout your life without ever meeting your real biological father to almost bleeding to death due to drunk driving on a motorcycle to having your mother commit suicide to having everyone shame you because of your violent, uncooperative father who happens to be at an unwelcomed resident at a homeless shelter that you’re working at is just the gist of the experience I have had while reading through Nick’s memoir. I became more hooked as the story progresses with Nick’s struggles and the drug abuse, alcoholism, and life-changing mistakes makes everything even more intense and fascinating. Not only is it interesting to read, but the story also reveals the lessons learned along the way, one of them being how Nick eventually accepted Jonathan Flynn for who he is, despite his arrogance and criminal record. In addition, I think this book would be a great start for readers who usually favor novels in the fiction genre and are hesitant to try nonfiction books. Although this book may be non-fiction, the style is very much similar to that of young adult fiction so it is fairly easy to comprehend, and it is even better knowing that such a tale happened in real life!

rebecca

A friend gave this to me offhand one night while we were having that drunken "gotta read this" conversation. I finally picked it up out of a pile two years later and I have to say: I'm glad I did. I'm a sucker for memoirs that detail family history in relation to the development of the character. Flynn achieves telling his own story through the history of others... as well as an extremely blunt and matter-of-fact delivery concerning his own history which jumps back and forth (time wise- this is never a problem- something I can often get distracted by in other memoirs). The struggles of the characters are set in such a way that the simplicity of the way the events are related do not discourage the extremely amazing prose that pops in and out of the chopped up chapters.

Philitsa

I thought this book would affect me more than it did. The back of the book has a synopsis and a list of quotes from reviews, which is what made me think I'd enjoy this book more. One review caught my eye, from GQ magazine. It says, "...a life worth writing about was bestowed upon a man actually able to write..." Firstly, everyone has a life worth writing about. There's poetry and beauty and a story to tell about everyone's life; a good writer will make the most mundane circumstance seem electric. Secondly, the author didn't really write about his life. The truly beautiful prose was reserved for talking about his father's life or how his father's life impacted his own. I think there was a single paragraph dedicated to how he went back to school to get his degree and moved to NYC. Those are momentous occasions in a person's life, even in the context of writing about your father. To contrast that, there was a whole chapter dedicated to words and phrases used to describe alcohol -- both he and his father were alcoholics.I didn't learn a thing from this book, other than where to find places to camp out if I ever find myself homeless in Boston. I did enjoy reading the book, but not as much as I thought I would have, which is always disappointing.

Writer's Relief

To be honest, it took about 100 pages to get the rhythm and technique that Flynn was using to tell this story. In hindsight, I think his style was very effective and just blame myself for not being exposed to more non-traditional formats/styles.A harrowing and forthright look at homelessness and alcoholism/drug use, Flynn uses his poetic skills to tell not only his story (working at a homeless shelter), but also his father's (who was homeless).Flynn tries so hard to avoid his connection to his father, but through many hears of heartache and struggles, he finds a life raft that helps steer him toward solidarity and hope--not only with regard to his life, but with his father's as well.

Rae Wood

Memoirs often rest on the faulty logic that lived experiences are innately worth putting on paper because they actually happened. Flynn's memoir succeeds because it isn't lazy -- it doesn't expect that The Truth is enough to make a narrative a quality one. Bold stylistic choices and his ability to carve themes elegantly out of his life story are the core elements that allow Another Bullshit Night to read not only like fiction, but really really good fiction. Another Bullshit Night is a strange dance of memories and encounters Flynn has with his estranged, frequently homeless father while working for a homeless shelter. There is a chilling beauty to Flynn seeing his father's face among the broken men who frequent the shelter -- the impossible conflation of intimacy and anonymity. All of these encounters lead Flynn to reconcile his father's disastrous existence with his own, force him to seek answers to the question: how much do parents (in their presence or absence) dictate who we are?

Laurel

another postmodern turd in craptown

cathy

The credit for this book’s colorful title goes to Nick Flynn’s dad, the main protagonist in his memoir of coming to know himself through a chance reunion with his father. The story initially focuses on the early parallels between young Flynn and his estranged, alcoholic father. The author then brings us to a Boston homeless shelter where he held a minimum-wage job for 5 years after living alone on a houseboat near Boston Harbor. Father and son’s lives fatefully intersect in the shelter when his dad becomes a regular, but highly-volatile, unwelcome guest. As a Boston native, I appreciated Flynn’s wry surveying of the City during his nightly voyages in the homeless shelter van. He was usually successful rounding up the deinstitutionalized and others made homeless by chance or by choice; however, he was often unable to corral his own father, that is, when he didn’t purposely avoid his usual haunts. Flynn’s dad burned all personal and professional bridges long before he wound up on the streets, and it seems all he has left is his ego, buttressed by grandiose notions about his skill as a writer. He talks ad nauseam (to the reader’s amusement) about his great semi-autobiographical novel that has gone unrecognized (this tome may or may not have ever been completed). As proof someone was interested in this work, he frames “personal” notes (form rejection letters) he received from publishing houses. Flynn is first a poet, and you see his skill as he deftly crafts lyrical passages about their shared mental illness and sometimes self-destructive streak of eschewing convention—and help when needed. For good or bad, they are both self-made men who have a talent for storytelling. You get the sense that Nick’s book serves to tell his own story, but also that of Flynn Sr., who never had the discipline or courage to get it down himself.

Debbie

I spent a lot of time while reading this wondering who I know that will be resigned to a fate similar to that of the father in these memoirs. Who will wind up past the prime of their life having talked for years of what they will accomplish and have really accomplished nothing? I can unfortunately name a decent sized handful of people who run this risk at this point in their lives. Closer to thirty than to twenty, and wasting months of their lives on drinking binges, babbling about their potential, but not wanting to do anything besides their current lifestyle. Of course, they hide their virtual uselessness by making (not especially good) music. And I'm a big fan of music, and realize that in order to make anything good you will probably make a lot of stuff that isn't. However, to pin all your hopes for your future on making it big in music just isn't that realistic. Even less so now that the music business has been in recession for longer than the rest of the nation can boast. I wish there were anything to be said about it that wouldn't be taken as annoying nagging, but these people will run the course of their lives however they see fit, regardless of what is good for them or what they're capable of. It's relatively foreign to me, having been raised to believe that anything you get in life should be something you have earned, and that if you didn't earn it, you probably don't deserve it. I believe life is all about working hard. Not that I've been doing much of it myself lately, but being in this position has only made me realize just how much it's not the life for me. My self worth is at an all-time low, and with where I stand on such things it damn well should be. Luckily, I will be starting to go full-time to school in about a month, and that should be repairing to my self image and mindset. Anyway, it's funny that the setting for these memoirs is Massachusetts, because it only drove the point home for me about the failings of the lifestyle, having grown up on the Cape. I know there are people everywhere that wind up on the streets, finally running out of people to use and possessions to hock. But I keep seeing people from back home confining themselves to the slacker, constantly partying social life. I feel that Cape Cod is a destructive place to live, and I'm beginning to wonder if there's something about the whole state. Or maybe even the coastal areas of New England. I doubt that is in fact the case, but wouldn't it be odd if somehow the places that birthed out nation are beginning to be left behind in disgust? Anyway, back to the matter of the book, it was definitely interesting, sometimes almost painful, and altogether hard for me to put down.

Nicholas During

There are many memoirs being published today. Many one has to ask of, why? Not this one. The narrative is gripping, the story moving, and the overall the book is incredibly powerful. I strongly believe that one of the, if not the only, purpose of literature is to give a moral message to the reader. And this book does that and some. I ended up giving $20 to a homeless man on the subway while reading this book. Seriously. I feel much more empathetic to people that I often do, and that really means that this book is a success. There are, however, a couple points I wanted to raise with it.The first is literature. Here is a man who is a writer, wants to be a writer, and has written his autobiography. One then does he barely talk about writing? Seems weird. It comes up at the end, and there are a handful of literary allusions (King Lear being prominent), but for most of the book one thinks he's a normal kind looking for jobs to survive, and really with no dreams of anything but surviving, and getting high. But he obviously does. What gives?Secondly, what happened to the rest of the characters? Nick Flynn himself is there. But barely anyone else, including the father, who this book is, kind of, meant to be about. Mother, barely there. Brother, barely there. Long term girlfriend, barely there. Friends, hard to keep in touch who is who. While I do think this book succeeds in moving the reader and giving a moral message, why without characters? Haven't you read Dickens? It's a good way to do it.And lastly, I'm not sure if this book is really that well written. I mean, it does move quickly and easily. But I suspect it might be because of the gripping story rather than the style. For someone who turns out to be poet this is a bit strange. In contrast it does show how powerful this story for the writer himself. And this can be a rare thing. It does come across as cathartic exercise--and perhaps the story is so important to the writer that he can't help but write it without elaborate, analysis, or tricks. And I am being a bit harsh here, since I did like some of the Lear references and the way he turns his absent father, both in reality and in often in the book, into a anti-hero who the hero cannot really come to terms with. How does one express this? Perhaps the only answer is by being straight up.Overall though, I rushed through this book, it did move me, and I'm very glad to have read it. Not sure if I'll go to the movie however.

Kevin

It's as good as everyone says it is. I like his ability to write pretty straight-forward passages and then do some weird poetic tangents.

Jim

I love this book. It's a dark, beautifully-written look at a guy working at Boston's Pine Street Inn whose dad happens to frequent the shelter. For all the crappy memoirists out there, I'm glad we have writers like Flynn who remind us that the genre doesn't necessarily have to be a haven for terrible writing that hides behind real-life experience. This guy could have practically coasted on his hard-luck life story, but instead he knuckled down and produced a kick-ass book.

Allen B. Lloyd

I tend to shy away from memoirs. Books like A Million Little Pieces, Angel At The Fence, and Love & Consequences, all masterworks of prevarication, have made me suspicious, admittedly unfairly, of the genre as a whole. Thankfully, Nick Flynn's memoir, Another Bullshit Night In Suck City, is a fine example of what a memoir ought to be: introspective, well written, occasionally humorous, and honest. Flynn's memoir is a pragmatic, and yet powerfully emotional, examination of his relationship with his estranged father, a man of questionable veracity, slowly destroying himself through alcoholism. Flynn's criticisms of his father are unflinchingly straightforward, but he does not spare himself from his clearheaded and insightful scrutiny; the demons of both men are shown with heart breaking clarity through Flynn's beautiful, experimental prose. And while some of the literary styles Flynn incorporates into his narrative are not entirely successful (the segment called "santa lear" comes to mind) the book easily overcomes whatever flaws it may have, leaving us with a tragic, but ultimately redemptive tale of homelessness, drug addiction, alcoholism, compassion and hope.

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