Nick Flynn: Another Bulsh*t Night in Suck City

Posted on September 8, 2012


Author Nick Flynn (Photo by Geordie Wood)

Nick Flynn: Another Bulsh*t Night in Suck City
by AnneLise Sorensen

Writers find inspiration in many places – sunsets, an emotional breakup, a bottle of whiskey. Or, in the case of writer and poet Nick Flynn, in “Harold and Maude.”

The series “Under the Influence: Writers on Film” invites top literary figures to the screening room of the Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo, where each writer introduces a film that has influenced their work. The evening is topped off with cocktails, canapés and a book-signing arranged by the nearby bookstore McNally Jackson.

Recently, Nick Flynn presented “Harold and Maude,” and discussed how the sweet love between a morbid young man and a 79-year-old woman who wears her hair in braids influenced his writing – and his new memoir.

The memoir business has become just that: a business. The hunger to create a bestseller out of what was traditionally the hardest sell in publishing has given the world such gripping titles as “Don’t Hassel the Hoff” (David Hasselhoff), “Soula Coaster” (R. Kelly) and “Don’t Pee on my Leg and Tell Me it’s Raining (Judge Judy). You could say it all began with “Touch Me: The Poems of Suzanne Somers.” And then there are the memoirs that are as vacuous as the reality stars who write them – witness “sTORI Telling” followed by the equally hard-hitting“Uncharted terriTORI” and, of course, “Kardashian Konfidential.”

And that’s why Nick Flynn’s memoir, which is the opposite of all of that, has resonated with readers. The title has something to do with its success: “Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City.” As does the story, of course. But it’s Flynn’s honesty that lingers with you long after you’ve shelved the book. It’s a quiet honesty – there are no “lessons I’ve learned” or “the truth will set you free.” It’s more a simple marveling at the way life can unfold. We marvel along with Flynn, especially as he arrives at the crux of his book. While working at a homeless shelter, Flynn receives a new client: An alcoholic, self-proclaimed writer, who was recently released from prison. The man is Flynn’s estranged father.

The book was made into a film – “Being Flynn” – and in an interview with NPR, the film’s director, Paul Weitz, hits on the central theme: Are we fated to become our parents?

Jonathan Flynn, both in the book and the movie, emerges as this tragic yet all-consuming figure, with his bloated ego and hysterically misguided belief that he’s on par with “Mark Twain and J. D. Salinger.” In Psych 101, he’d be the case study for “delusions of grandeur.”

But, in the end, there is some salvation for Jonathan Flynn. Who plays him in the movie? Robert De Niro. Not many can make that claim.

“In Like Flynn,” by AnneLise Sorensen originally appeared on MSN (Microsoft Network) Postbox.