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June 22, 2013

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City ~ The book & the movie




The book, first published in 2004, is Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. The movie is called Being Flynn, directed  by Paul Weitz and starring Robert De Niro and Paul Dano, and it was released in 2012.




 Over 40 million people live in poverty in the US, subsisting for the most part, doing the menial jobs that keep the engine of economic life running in the greatest nation on earth. The book, and the movie, deals with the millions of people who fall even further below the poverty line: the homeless, the powerless, the forgotten. In the beginning of course, Nick Flynn's life, and that of his father, is nowhere near that point. The family, together in some fashion, does well enough; his mother has a regular job, supplemented by odd jobs, and his father, Jonathan, is around though often drunk.

Shortly after his birth, Nick's mother, giving up on her husband, took her two children and walked out. Nick would not see his father, never really knowing him in the first place, until well into adult life, and then under strange circumstances indeed, which is where the memoir begins: Nick works in a Boston homeless shelter and meets his father, a "guest".

Nick's life is predictable enough: a childhood of poverty, near-criminality, alcohol, drugs, and his mother's strange and disruptive boy friends. Ultimately Nick becomes semi-itinerant himself, drifting, always drifting, with drugs and alcohol close by. Bizarrely he has some contact with his father, one-way, through the post; Nick saves all his father's letters. In the film, Nick is played interestingly enough by Paul Dano, though the book presents a fuller, richer view of the young man's life and issues than can be handled by Dano in 100 minutes.

Jonathan is a delusional character, calling himself the greatest living writer in the US. He is a braggart and a wind-bag, endlessly waiting for the million dollar advance on his novel ("It's here somewhere"and oddly enough does appear near the story's end). Most of all Jonathan is a drunk and a con-man. De Niro plays him well in the movie, in fact it is one of De Niro's better recent performances, with the right balance of crazed humour and insane anger.

This is the story of two men and their converging lives. It is told in a fragmentary style that is quite appealing. Depressing, sordid and painfully real, the book features short chapters describing events in non-chronological order which captures the random craziness of the two Flynns wonderfully.

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (a phrase the senior Flynn uses to describe his time on the street) is a great read. Disturbing on a number of levels, it is a brilliant description of fathers and sons travelling  in dark places. The movie, Being Flynn, for some reason falling under the radar of critics and moviegoers alike, is highly entertaining and well worth finding.

That the story ends as well as it does is amazing.

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