Book Review: Being Flynn by Nick Flynn

Title: Being Flynn (originally published as Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City)
Author: Nick Flynn
Genre: Memoir, non-fiction
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
First line: Please, she whispers, how may I help you?

Goodreads blurb: 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.

In some ways, Nick Flynn’s memoir is very similar to Jeanette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle. Both authors write the story of the way their parents – whether absent or present – effect every aspect of their lives: who they become, how they relate to other people. Both authors’ parents end up vagrants.

Both stories are fascinating in a “This is horrible, but I can’t stop reading” kind of way. It is intriguing to read stories that show how profoundly a parent’s choices and actions ripple down through the years into a child’s life. But while I found The Glass Castle to be ultimately a hope-filled book, Being Flynn left me depressed. Of course, it was probably unrealistic to expect a different reaction to a book titled Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City.

There are many other differences in the two books, as well. The first, and biggest, is the writing style. While The Glass Castle has a linear, narrative structure which makes it easy to follow, Being Flynn is not linear – the storyline jumps back and forth through time in a way that I found unsettling. I often wasn’t sure if one event happened before or after another.

Flynn isn’t a bad writer, but his writing style is unusual. The fact that he has also published poetry doesn’t surprise me, as some of his passages are very poetic. Depending on the poet, I enjoy poetry, but when I’m reading a memoir, I’m interested in the story, and I found the “poetic” passages to be a distraction.

Having said that, I think that many of you would probably enjoy this book more than I did; it was simply a case of a mismatch between author and reader. I am curious to see the film version of Being Flynn, mainly because I think the role of Nick’s father is the type of role that Robert DeNiro excels at. Have any of you seen the movie yet?

This entry was posted in memoirs, non-fiction and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Book Review: Being Flynn by Nick Flynn

  1. Susan says:

    Liked your review comparison, found it useful. Being Flynn does sound depressing; it hasnt made my summer read list. For some reason I skipped seeing the film, maybe because of the trailer’s dark mish-mash story, but it seems De Niro would be good in it. Recently the 1998 version of Great Expectations was on the tube and De Niro was good in that too as the prisoner who becomes the main character’s benefactor.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Susan – I am definitely curious to watch the film to see if they put it in more of a chronological order.

  2. Great review – very thoughtful and interesting! I really like the look of this but it does like it’d be a bit of a difficult read. I hadn’t heard of this before now though, so thank you for bringing this to my attention!

    New to your blog!
    Stephanie @ Stepping Out of the Page

  3. stacybuckeye says:

    I loved the Glass Castle nainly because it was hopeful. Think I can skip this one.