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ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY by Nick Flynn

ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY

A Memoir

By Nick Flynn

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 2004
ISBN: 0-393-05139-0
Publisher: Norton

A noir family history told in small ladlings—perhaps all the reader may want to absorb at one time, or all the talented Flynn (Some Ether, 2000) can pour at a sitting.

His mother left her husband when the author was four years old. In a snapshot taken in the early 1960s, “I crawl toward my father’s face as we lay on the grass. . . . The father as ship, as vessel, holding the child afloat. But there was a parallel father as well—the drunk, the con, the paranoid. The father as ship, but taking on water, going down.” Flynn didn’t see his father again for 24 years. In the interval, his mother committed suicide after hovering “in the realm of vapor and shade,” though not before her son had embarked on his drinking career: “By the time Saigon falls I'm drinking whatever liquor I can get my hands on.” He’s 15. When Dad finally gives him a call, they are both wrecks: the elder an alcoholic ex-con living flop to flop, rifling garbage cans, still making stabs at writing, but more concerned with how to stay dry on a rainy night; the younger a doper, part-time drug-runner, working in a homeless shelter, adrift on a “sea of forgetfulness.” While the author ever so slowly, with lots of swings, gathers himself, his father takes to driving a taxi, more for scoping out sleeping venues than collecting fares. Flynn drives the homeless shelter van at night, each bundle a push-pull chance to encounter his father. The voice here is boiled just right: tough, articulate, mindful, without self-pity. There will be little bonding, and any knitting up of the ragged sleeve will have to wait for another time and plane.

This is “the book that somehow fell to me, the son, to write,” states the author, describing himself as “my father’s uncredited, non-compliant ghostwriter.” So give credit now, where it is well due.