jeremy's Reviews > The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir

The Ticking Is the Bomb by Nick Flynn
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's review
Nov 03, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: memoir-bio
Read in October, 2009

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 anticipating 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 is concerned with 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 whom 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?
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Oriana Thanks for the great review, Jeremy. I adored Another Bullshit Night, and I can't wait to read this one!!

jeremy i imagine you'll love it as much as you did another bullshit night. i've just recently learned that he is planning to tour in promotion of the book. so if you haven't seen him read before, now you'll have a chance.

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