The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir

The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir

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by Nick Flynn
     
 

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A dazzling, searing, and inventive memoir about becoming a father in the age of terror.

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

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Overview

A dazzling, searing, and inventive memoir about becoming a father in the age of terror.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
[A] finely crafted mosaic of edgy beauty, ambushing drama, and unsparing reflections…. Haunted, compassionate, fearful of failing as a parent, Flynn pursues the deeply disturbing subject of torture into unexpected spheres, seeking understanding of our obsession with power, acceptance of suffering, and transcendent resilience.
San Francisco Chronicle
A writer of uncommon thoughtful eloquence...If the battered genre of memoir is ever to regain its luster and intention, its rightful heritage of memory and impression, then Flynn is one of its most passionate and skilled advocates.— Susanna Sonnenberg
Los Angeles Times
The best passages here are simply astonishing...The questions Flynn asks in this disquieting masterpiece are quite simple: How could we, as a people, have allowed this to have happened? And why are we still?— Steve Almond
Publishers Weekly
Award-winning poet/author Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City) uses his daughter's imminent birth as a springboard to examine personal and political shakiness. Flynn jumps back and forth in covering his rocky childhood (his parents: a distraught, hard-living single mother; an ex-con, mentally wrecked father who was largely absent from Flynn's childhood), his struggles with women and sobriety, and adjusting to his daughter's arrival. Throughout this swirl of heartache and introspection, Flynn becomes obsessed with torture and America's acceptance of it after the infamous photos from Abu Ghraib are released. It's clear that Flynn is lost in his own life, and that he needs to find himself, or at least some stability, not just for his daughter's benefit but for his own. The accompanying narrative structure may isolate those who prefer a more straight-ahead style—the poetic interludes and scattered focus are sometimes more distracting than artistic—but Flynn's life is so volcanic and his writing style so kinetic and punchy that others will be drawn into this gripping personal narrative. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
Memoir as meditation on love and loss, birth and death, good and evil, from PEN Award winner Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, 2005, etc.). In 2007, as the author awaited the birth of his daughter, he became obsessed with the stories of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He felt that his daughter was only as real as the sonogram images of her, the tortured only as real as the now infamous photos of their naked bodies mired in humiliation and pain. This would change. Maeve Lulu was born, and Flynn traveled to Istanbul to witness the testimonies of ex-detainees of Abu Ghraib. Between his daughter's imminent birth and his confrontation with the tortured, Flynn became lost-"Everyone, if they live long enough, will lose their way at some point"-and, above all, bewildered-"bewilderment of waking up, my hand on Inez's belly, as the fine points of waterboarding are debated on public radio." His only way back was to remember, and so he wrote of memories-some long ago, some fresh wounds, some clear in their meaning, some as elusive as wind. Some memories led to other memories, while others stood alone. He remembered a mother who committed suicide at age 42, a father who was lost to alcohol and then prison at 45, returning to Flynn's life a ruined man in need of care. He remembered lovers he could not love and feared that when Maeve was born, "I will look at her and not feel a thing." The author summoned the image of the dragon in Paradise Lost and wondered if it might consume him, the torturers he hates, or both. Flynn recalls and records in a stunningly beautiful cascade of images. In the end, he realizes that only love was real: "The only miracle is now. Lulu is the only miracle."And that was enough. A striking collection of memories that will mystify, enlighten, trouble and amaze. Author tour to New York, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles
Library Journal
Poet/playwright Flynn (www.nickflynn.org) follows up his first memoir, the New York Times best-selling PEN/Martha Albrand Award winner Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (2004), with this spiraling inner monolog about being a father and being fathered into a brutal world. Though this work may challenge some listeners with its jumps in chronology and anxiety-laden prose style, reader Scott Brick (see Behind the Mike, LJ 10/15/09) does a marvelous job of maneuvering through the narrative's various parts, keeping his delivery rhythmically consistent while simultaneously projecting the right amount of emphasis and emotion. Brick's performance will hold listeners' attention long enough for them to enjoy and adapt fully to Flynn's unconventional work. For those liking experimental nonfiction, memoirs, and political reflections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/09.—Ed.]—Lance Eaton, Peabody, MA

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393068160
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
01/18/2010
Pages:
283
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet 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.

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