Considering its sublimely profane, attention-grabbing title, Nick Flynn's highly praised new memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, doesn't exactly scream Oprah Book Club. True, it's the story of a family reunion, but not exactly the touchy-feely kind.
"I spent six years working with the homeless," explains Flynn, who will be reading and discussing his book this week at Brazos Bookstore. "And about halfway through that time, my dad just showed up at the shelter." The book details how Flynn and his father, a self-proclaimed con man and poet, got reacquainted.
Until the two met at the shelter, Flynn Senior had been little more than a deadbeat dad, and young Nick's mom insisted the son was better off for the absence. Still, Nick found himself gravitating to the kinds of places where he would be likely to run into the shadowy figure from his birth certificate.
The genesis of Bullshit Night wasn't straightforward. As father and son got to know each other, Nick (who has since published two acclaimed books of poetry and teaches part-time at the University of Houston) first made a short documentary film wherein his father gave him some practical advice based on solid experience. The film was titled How to Rob a Bank.
Flynn considers his book to be a compassionate portrait of his father, but the warts-and-all approach has proved disturbing to some readers, who seem to think it cruel or invasive. "I really think that if we as people can't talk about the things that really matter, even if they're not pretty, we're in a lot of trouble," he says.
Despite his book's über-gritty subject matter and censor-baiting title, the response has been amazingly positive. "I saw this Web site where they were rating all the new entertainment offerings available that week," Flynn reports with gleeful satisfaction, "and the only two things that got A's were the Star Wars trilogy DVD and my book." Come to think of it, Darth Vader was a deadbeat dad. Coincidence?