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

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.

Alex

When you have a title that good, it can only go downhill from there, right? Not so. I'm actually a little bit embarrassed by how much I loved this book - Flynn's memoir of getting to know his estranged, alcoholic, homeless, ex-bank robbing, self-proclaimed great writer of a father. I've tried to break down what it is I find so appealing about this book and I've narrowed it down to the following things:- Vignettes: Some of the chapters in this book are a page, or even a paragraph, long. I first realized how much I loved this style when reading Slaughterhouse Five. The chopping up of text in this manner A) suits my attention span and B) allows for an implied poignance at then end of each section that I am a sucker for. Closing sentences can be so powerful. Vignettes provide the opportunity for many closing sentences.- The hard-boiled poet: before Flynn wrote memoirs he was a published poet and teacher. It can't be a coincidence that many of my favorite authors (Charles Bukowski, Denis Johnson, Jim Harrison) are poets as well. However they are what I just decided to term "hard-boiled poets". These aren't the kinds of poets you turn to for pretty rumination on the coming of Spring; you turn to them for pretty rumination on what it is like to be miserable, drunk, homeless, and yearning.- Boston: Flynn grew up in Scituate and lived and worked in Boston for much of the years depicted in the book. I'm a sucker for anything that takes place locally, and since I knew most of the locations he discussed, it made the story that much easier to connect with.I'd like to say that this simple formula explains my love for this book, and in part it does, but the truth is much simpler: Nick Flynn is a great writer, and his story is truly remarkable.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Brian

A book this honest could easily be taken as bleak and depressing, but Flynn weaves the story of his relationship with his father with the look towards redemption and hope that make this an amazing memoir.

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.

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.

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