So about a good week / week and a half ago I did finish Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. I very highly recommend it. I’m generally not a memoir kind of gal, but I think I’m getting more and more interested in them. Last year I read (well, cheater read — listened to on MP3 — cut me some slack I was driving all over the place visiting my long distance boyfriend: Boston, West Hartford, to Ware, and back to Northampton and NPR just doesn’t have news on all the time!) Frank MCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis. I defintely liked Angela’s Ashes much better than ‘Tis, though ‘Tis was about an English teacher, so how could I resist? I just started Augusten Burroughs’ memoir Running With Scissors, which is set in the Pioneer Valley. Already in the first 5-10 pages he mentions Amherst and Northampton, though from what I understand about the book, I don’t think it will make me too homesick.
But back to Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. One of my coworkers said of the title, “Sound like my first year in Hartford,” and I’d have to agree with that sentiment for now — until I find Hartford’s hidden treasures. What I love about the book is its humility and less than linear structure. It’s Flynn’s story of working at a homeless shelter in Boston in the 80’s and having his absent and alcoholic father come in as a patron. I can’t say that the story is particularly forgiving, but it is also not unforgiving. Flynn details his childhood as well, peppering the 80’s narrative with chapters in a variety of styles focusing on childhood and teen years. I don’t know that I would say that his style is like Faulkner’s, but I think I like some of their common ground. The flaw that I saw with the novel is that there are two chapters that are written as drama, stage directions and all, and they didn’t work for me. They reference Beckett, and while I like Beckett (yet oone of my students abducted two of my heavily annotated Beckett books — which I suppose I was destined to lose after my best friend Sue had these books for about 6 years), the two chapters don’t work for me here in this text.
Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly recommend it. When I was at Bennington, Roland Merullo taught a class called Novels of the Working Class, and while Flynn’s book is not a novel, it would have fit in nicely. There’s a tendancy with some gritty stories, involving drugs, violence, sex, etc to be self-agrandizing, ultra-hip — and this book is devoid of that ego-trip. Read it and tell me what you think.