Nick Flynn's newest work, The Ticking Is the Bomb
, is a memoir much in the same vein as its predecessor, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
, although much grander in scope and insight. Whereas the earlier book was mainly concerned with the personal, in The Ticking Is the Bomb
Flynn trains his poetic gaze upon a post-9/11 America that condones torture and entwines this troubling aspect of our present with his own growing realizations about life, love, addiction, and anticipation of fatherhood. Comprised of short, essay-like vignettes, the book shimmers with sincerity, candor, and wisdom. The more Flynn strives to make sense of the insensible, the more it seems he understands facets of his own troubling past.
In many ways, The Ticking Is the Bomb
considers the nature of relationships. Flynn tries to make sense of his role in many a varied relationship; the one he's had with his father, his mother, ex-lovers, his unborn child, with those that countenance unspeakable war crimes, his craft, and his own unsettled past. This is certainly Flynn's most mature work to date, and it is anything but subtle. Flynn is a tender, thoughtful writer with a strong command of language, seemingly committed to writing with devastating intellectual and emotional honesty. The Ticking Is the Bomb
, like the best of memoir-style works, by the end allows the author to slip aside, leaving in his place a reader who then must, for him or herself, withstand the penetrating gaze of self-criticism.
From "The Uses of Enchantment (Flying Monkeys)":
Sometimes the story we tell about ourselves can be a type of spell. Sometimes it's about a love that never should have ended, sometimes it's about a family fortune squandered, and sometimes it's about a war we shouldn't have lost but did. Sometimes it's an echo of a story from our childhoods, a fairy tale, a story of what could have been saved, what could have been salvaged, if we'd just held on a little longer. A story of not giving up, as they say in AA, before the miracle comes. Or the story I carry, unuttered— if my mother had just made it to Monday, bewildered but alive... The structure of these types of stories fit into what is known as "redemptive narratives"— once i was lost, but now i'm found. It's Aristotle's Poetics, it's Jesus coming out of the desert, and now it's reenacted, over and over, on daytime television. By now it's nearly hardwired into us, but is it possible that this same narrative structure is now being used, by some, as a justification for the use of torture? The idea being that if we push the prisoner a little more, if we don't give up when it becomes unpleasant, if we can ignore the screams, the disfigurement, the voice in our heads, then the answer will come, the answer that will save the world. And if the tortured dies in your hands, without giving the answer, will this mean you were wrong, or merely that the technique must be refined? Or if the answer he gives is worthless, if it is a lie, will that mean we must push a little further, hold on a little longer? Force his head under water? Make his eyes electric? Does it mean that the doctors must be brought in, the feeding tubes inserted, the body kept alive? And if we continue to cling to this way of telling our stories, this fairy tale, long after we've found our way out of the woods, at what point can we then be said to be under the effect of some spell, some enchantment? Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In 2007, during the months before Nick Flynn's daughter's birth, his growing outrage and obsession with torture, exacerbated by the Abu Ghraib photographs, led him to Istanbul to meet some of the Iraqi men depicted in those photos. Haunted by a history of addiction, a relationship with his unsteady father, and a longing to connect with his mother who committed suicide, Flynn artfully interweaves in this memoir passages from his childhood, his relationships with women, and his growing obsession--a questioning of terror, torture, and the political crimes we can neither see nor understand in post-9/11 American life. The time bomb of the title becomes an unlikely metaphor and vehicle for exploring the fears and joys of becoming a father. Here is a memoir of profound self-discovery--of being lost and found, of painful family memories and losses, of the need to run from love, and of the ability to embrace it again.
"[Flynn's] efforts to reconcile the tattered pieces of his life--his determination to find love and redemption in a world gone mad--feel gutsy, hard won, and utterly true." Steve Almond Los Angeles Times
"[Flynn's] search for the meaning of fatherhood in the era of terror is remarkable not only for the nimbleness with which he pulls these threads together--observations of former prisoners are woven with meditations on loss--but also for its empathy and unshrinking honesty." Elissa Schappell
"What does it mean that America tortures? . . . This is the question that haunts Nick Flynn's devastating new book . . . the best passages here are simply astonishing. Flynn writes with great tenderness about the terrors and joys of fatherhood . . . a disquieting masterpiece." Vanity Fair
"A beautiful, intelligent book that renders pain both ordinary and extraordinary into art."--Susanna Sonnenberg,
About the Author
Nick Flynn is the author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and The Ticking Is the Bomb. He divides his time between Houston and Brooklyn.