three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
14-Jan-Feb-2005
By: 
Nick Flynn
user_rating: 
0

A Memoir

A-AnotherBullshitNight"Get over here with your truck. … I’m sitting behind my door with a shotgun, waiting for the knob to turn." Joe Flynn’s greeting to the son he abandoned 27 years earlier is just one of the stranger-than-fiction episodes in Flynn’s new memoir. Joe, a homeless alcoholic with an unfinished novel and a penchant for tall tales, turns up at Nick’s job at a homeless shelter in Boston’s South End. The unexpected reunion isn’t exactly a love fest. Nick avoids his father as he examines his own struggles with addiction and his choice to be a writer, and he comes to understand the fragile connection that binds his father’s life to his own.
Norton. 348 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0393051390

San Francisco Chronicle 4.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s a good hook, an interesting premise, and the book will probably do very well because the story is true. And that’s actually almost a shame, because that would fail to take into account where the book truly succeeds, which is as a near-perfect work of literature." Stephen Elliott

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Some [chapters] advance the story; others are more visceral, suggesting Lear, Beckett, Faulkner, Genet and forcing us to decide which is more painful: a parent’s lost dreams or a child’s lost innocence. … In its best moments, the writing fades, replaced by Flynn’s deeper need to interpret his father’s life (and his own)."
Thomas Curwen

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Flynn’s talents are considerable—he has a compelling voice and a wry sense of humor, especially about himself. He avoids the pitfalls that come with his subject matter: when writing about his recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, he keeps therapy-speak at bay; when describing his work at the shelter, he’s utterly unsanctimonious." Vendela Vida

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"As a memoir … the book prompts unease. … Even if one grants the author his caprices and his access to someone else’s mind, there remains a troubling sense of blurred genres and implausible scenes." Michael Mewshaw

Critical Summary

Poet Flynn was either fortunate or unfortunate enough to live a life so ripe for a good memoir. The events in Another Bullshit Night are extraordinary enough to spur critical debate about whether the story would be better served in fictional form. In fact, the story is so enlightening that Flynn’s experimentation with narrative styles (one act plays, interviews, stream-of-consciousness) gets only cursory mention—a real free pass for book reviewers. The critics leap to call his prose poetic and lyrical, but it is the stark examination of homelessness and the paper-thin border between generations and lifestyles that gives this memoir its deep resonance.