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

Imogen

Nick Flynn is a poet, and I don't really read poetry. I don't have a criticism of poetry as a whole, obviously- I mean, I might say I do, but if I did that would just be to be provocative and a pain in your ass- it's just hard for me to pay attention in the way you have to pay attention, and to really understand what a poem is doing. We could argue about it, but trust me, it's my problem and it's not resolving. So it was really hard for me to get into this book. Nick Flyyn is a poet, and he writes like a poet, choosing the perfect word for what he's saying in a way that doesn't mind tripping up your internal sentence- or paragraph-diagrammer. In a way, in fact, that trips those fuckers up constantly. Right? A way that makes you think about the way he's saying the things he's saying, as well as the things. But by the end I had gotten into it: the Boston, the snow, the despair, the complicated relationship with the semi-delusional father. I mean, it's barely a memoir of Nick Flynn himself, right? There's at least as much about his father as there is about him. And it's beautiful and smart and heartbreaking, sure, like books are supposed to be; I just had to butt heads with it the whole time I was reading it.

Theresa

I read this book because a good friend recommended it to me. I believe the recommendations came on the grounds that:a. I love memoirs andb. I love homeless people and c. I love BostonThis book is is amazing for all of those reasons. I can see how someone might not like it...but for me this book was absolute brilliance. It reads like poetry (no wonder, since the writer is a poet), and it is painful and beautiful and so sad at the same time. If you have any experience with homeless people who live just on the fringes of sanity, you will understand this book. And if you are a writer/storyteller/poet/human yearning for your stories to really FEEL like something, read this book.By way of synopsis: average American family (in that the real average is probably way below average income): mom falls for a man she should have known better of, has two kids, they break up, she has a string of boyfriends who think they are using her when really she is using them. Kids grow up and one goes on to hate his father; the other goes on to hate him and feel uncontrollably draw to him at the same time. That one goes on to work with the homeless, which allows him to justify the fact that he is spiraling in addictions: because hey, he's helping people. He knows that his father will inevitably cross his path, but he avoids this reality even as his father moves into the shelter where he works. And they meet. And his father is impossibly insane, and also kind of exactly like him. Also: way more than that.Just read it. How can I possibly describe 341 pages of poetry in the guise of prose about a person's life? Just read it.

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.

Laurel

another postmodern turd in craptown

Dave

I was reluctant to give this five stars--it's not an easy experience. But it's definitely amazing. Don't confuse it with just another quirky family memoir: it has emotionally raw and real things to say about alcoholism, mental illness, heredity, and the homeless. (Each person from the shelter is drawn so distinctively it makes you realize how reductive and dismissive the term "the homeless" really is).I make it sounds harsh and dark--which it is--but there is also a deadpan sense of humor running through it, eliciting the relieved, nervous laughter you get when you just catch yourself overbalancing on a rickety ladder. Flynn takes a lot of stylistic chances to keep making the story immediate and arresting. Not everything works--for me, the Lear chapter doesn't quite cut it--but so many other chapters ("Ham" and "Cloverleaf" and "Same Again") are just stunning.

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.

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.

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?

Sara

I first fell in love with this book as a college Junior in my first Contemporary American Literature course. I loved its nonlinear structure, experimentation with mixing genres and poetic allusions. I now return to it about once a year, particularly when I'm struggling with my own alcoholic and perpetually absent father, as a kind of sense-maker for my own world.

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.

Ben

So this book is kind of like Joseph Mitchell's Up in the Old Hotel except that 1) it is relatively contemporary; 2) it is about Boston; and 3) it is autobiographical. Which is to say that, on the outside, it is nothing like Up in the Old Hotel. Except that it is what I call a "mood" book that gets you in the Boston "mood" - like, more a tableau than a novel. Yeah, you like that I wrote "tableau" didn't you? I was trying to fit the term "geist" in but I am too lazy to think up a sentence for it, other than, maybe, "this book gets you a feel for the 'geist' of Boston-and-vicinity." It's about a guy that works in a homeless shelter and meets his dad there, who happens to be a client. Also about how white folks can also be "straight ghetto" in the derogatory, stereotypical sense. See also, All Souls and The Departed.

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.

Abe Brennan

Nick Flynn’s pathos-packed memoir is part coming-of-age story and part counter-culture-chronicle, part mental-illness menagerie and part generational-reconciliation-project. His poetic past serves him well, manifesting in image shards and lingual leaps that strike chords that vibrate in a reader long after she puts down the book. Like life, there is no tidy resolution to this story, no miraculous recovery for his addled dad—as the narrator ages and matures, he’s just able to manage better and take a legitimate stab at accepting the unacceptable.

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.

Fred

Much of this book really worked beautifully. The spare language, the emotional distance, the imperfect memories and half-true tales. The Boston-area setting helped as well, if one is into local color. This one is.A small handful--perhaps more of a pinch--of the later, more experimental selections went too far astray for my liking. And that's honestly too bad, because while I've no doubt the author has ready defenses and explanations that would instantly transform my opinion, as ever the author was somewhere other than at my elbow when I came across those seemingly out-of-step sections.That took some inflation out of my overestimation of the book. For at least the first half, I had nothing but glowing things to say about the book. But then came those pieces in the second half, and the picture Flynn had been assembling became a bit clouded by those pieces that felt more self-indulgent than informative. Still, once a book's been published and has met with success, it becomes rather pointless to suggest edits. Would the changes have made it a better book in general, or would they just make it better for me?

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