Another Bull**** Night In Suck City attracted my attention when I saw the trailer for the film based upon it Being Flynn starring Paul Dano and Robert De Niro.
The novel is a memoir of father and son, the impact growing up without a father had upon Nick Flynn as a boy and the complex psychological reaction and range of emotions Nick is put through when his absent father suddenly becomes a present client at the homeless shelter at which he works.
This book has a completely unique story to tell, I have not read a story like the situation Nick Flynn is faced with before. His father Jonathan, as described by him reminded me immensely of Joe Gould from the Joseph Mitchell portrait of the homeless character on New York's streets.
Jonathan similarly is full of grandiose beliefs and claims, including being related to the inventors of various things, and being descended from the Romanov dynasty. A failed writer he is racist, conceited, bombastic and rude, you pity Nick Flynn completely for having to deal with this man, for having to have his colleagues, friends and girlfriend know his father for what he is.
But, Another Bull**** Night In Suck City rises entirely above the plethora of "my awful childhood" books that dominate supermarket shelves because it is wonderfully written and literary in style. I empathised with Nick strongly throughout, like when he tends to homeless men in the street, gives them food and blankets and does not know if the man in the next doorway will be his own Dad. Or when from inside his house he spies his father alone, walking, and is guilt-ridden for not inviting him in but knows for the sake of sheer self preservation he cannot.
I saw someone on Amazon say they think it might be quite a male book, but I think the emotions transcend gender and I think anyone who has had a difficult or failed relationship with one or both parents will identify.
Where the book falters slightly is when he introduces experimental elements such as casting his father in a play not literally but as part of the narrative, these don't quite work. But, like David Vann's Legend Of A Suicide the emotional realities conveyed in this story are frequently so real that the reader feels the author's pain, which is an achievement indeed. 8/10