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The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,242 ratings  ·  164 reviews
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
Hardcover, 1st edition, 283 pages
Published January 18th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published December 1st 2009)
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 ·  1,242 ratings  ·  164 reviews

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Colin McKay Miller
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Delve in to any book of the Nick Flynn canon and you’ll find a couple of threads that run throughout: 1) That his mother committed suicide; and 2) That he met his unstable father—who left when he was six months old—while working at a homeless shelter in Boston. Depending on what (poetry or memoir) book you read, one of these stories will be emphasized, so it’s neat to piece together Flynn’s past from various reads, but his latest memoir, The Ticking is the Bomb, was supposed to be different.

Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nick Flynn’s The Ticking is the Bomb tells the story of his life prior to his daughter’s existence, a time when he is lost in the sense that he doesn’t know what he is doing rather than where he is. The book is set in a variety of places (to which Flynn travels) over a large time span, which ranges from his childhood with his suicidal mother to the recent with his father. Wanting to reflect on his life in order to be prepared for his daughter’s birth and role as a father, Flynn writes on his ...more
Peter Clothier
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I obviously did not want to read this book. It first arrived in the mail, as an advance review copy, a several months ago, and I consigned it casually to the pile of books that I might read some day. But I didn't read it. There was something about it, obviously, that I did not like. Perhaps it was the cover. Perhaps it was the color of the cover--a bright lemon yellow. Perhaps it was the title of one of the author's previous publications, boldly printed at the bottom of the cover, to pull the ...more
Jun 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoirs
As I've said before, I'm a sucker for a good memoir. As it turns out, I'm a sucker for any memoir - even if it's not really that good.

I'm not sure what it is that separates my appreciation of memoir from that of biography or autobiography, but I think it's this: whereas a biography or autobiography demand truth, for a memoir - honestly, only verisimilitude.

I'm not saying memoirs should be endless pages of fabricated, expanded or exaggerated stories... (i.e. James Frey you took it a little too
Nov 07, 2009 rated it liked it

Unfortunately, my initial thoughts remained true throughout the rest of the book. I'm sorry, Nick Flynn, that your last book was so fucking good that anything else you write will (most likely) pale in comparison.


I'm still more or less reserving judgment, but as I'm now just over halfway through, I'm sad to say that I am not loving this nearly as much as the brilliantly incredible Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. The language here is beautiful, sure, but somehow not quite as beautiful as
Oct 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-bio
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. ...more
Mar 13, 2010 rated it liked it
One of the trickiest jobs in the world would be writing the summary of Nick Flynn's memoir "The Ticking is the Bomb" for the dust jacket. It is billed as being about Flynn's thoughts on torture after the revelation of photos from Abu Ghraib, juxtaposed with sonogram photos of his daughter. In true memoir fashion, it is also about his alcoholic father, freshly sprung from prison and living intermittently on the streets and in a shelter where Flynn works, his mother's suicide, and the sticky ...more
Patrick Brown
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirsandbios
There are a few books I'd like to mail to President Obama, not because I hope he'll read them and talk about them, and therefore get everyone else to read them (though that'd be nice) but because I think they say something about an important issue in a way that I simply can't. I could write Obama a letter about torture, about how I feel about it being used in my name, but it wouldn't achieve half of what Flynn does in this bizarre, floating memoir.

Somehow, despite enormous odds, Flynn manages to
Renee Alberts
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Nikki
Nick Flynn’s moving second memoir is, at its simplest, a meditation on the shadow. In it, he focuses primarily on the idea of torture, combined with his apprehension about his pending fatherhood. As he explores these topics, however, the subjects include his past relationships, his family history (including his suicide mother and alcoholic, homeless father), and his own wrongdoings. Flynn was one of several artists invited to witness accounts of ex-Abu Ghraib inmates, many of whom were tortured ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really liked Nick Flynn's first memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. So when I saw the review for The Ticking Is The Bomb in the Sunday LA Times, I didn't even bother to read it. I didn't want someone else's opinion to get in the way. Luckily I was meeting a friend that afternoon to hang out in the rain, and we had decided to first meet up at Skylight Books - where I bought their next to last copy.

Flynn's also a great poet, which, at least in my opinion, greatly influences his
Sabiha Khan
May 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read- connected, real, and heartwarmingly honest. Writing is simple while still being beautiful.
Mary Blye Kramer
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Was it just me or did anyone else miss any real connection between terrorism and Flynn’s various musings about his numerous flings, his grief over his parents, and having a child, all of which are just randomly thrown in? I get Flynn’s poetry - I liked the other 2 books I’ve read by him - but this book just felt entirely directionless, not poetic.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nonlinear & meandering, he pulls the throughlines through this interesting memoir in ways that surprised me. Flynn is outraged & outrageous when he delves into the U.S. use of torture since 9/11, heartrending when he focuses on his parents & childhood. His impending fatherhood ticks away in the background...
Apr 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
(4.5 Stars) Nick Flynn is one of my favorite poets. Whenever I tell people this (people who are familiar with his work) they always mention his 2004 memoir "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City." I haven't read that book yet, but said I have just to avoid the "oh my god, I can't believe you haven't read that!" guilt. Until now, I'd only read his poetry. His award winning debut collection, Some Ether, is one of my favorite books of all time and I reach for it often when I am seeking a creative ...more
Audacia Ray
Dec 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, read-in-2010
A blurb on the back cover of Nick Flynn's latest calls the writing "impressionistic" - and that is so dead on. I loved Another Bullshit Night in Suck City so I was eager to get my hands on Flynn's new book, and it didn't disappoint.

The book is put together in a bunch of short, punchy passages. I almost feel like writing "fragments," but it isn't very fragmentary, each piece is very much a whole, a rich piece unto itself, but also a part of the larger piece. The book is ostensibly about torture
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I almost didn't read this book. I got it from the library, stared at it for a day or two, then shoved it in the bag I wasn't using and ignored it for a week -- sure the cover is bright and the title is catchy, but it's about torture and childhood and making a baby before you're sure what to do with one, and it seemed to have little to do with me.

Then one day I picked it up and flipped it open, and a few hours later I'd read the whole thing. What got me was really the way he moved among these
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
i should say that i think i am madly in love with nick flynn. this book has flaws and i read it in fits and starts, but there are snipets that made me crumple. it isn't as sharp as another bullshit night in suck city but still - four stars.
Dec 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Didn't grab me like Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, but it's Nick Flynn, so that means it's still better than 90% of other crap in the world.
Feb 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A vital work of contemporary nonfiction. So damn good.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it liked it
The writing was decent with moments of really good turn of phrase or thought or description, but overall the story lacked enough focus or depth to make it work. It consists of an amalgam of very brief glimpses of the author's thoughts and biographical history coupled with many repetitive themes, that started to become tiresome for their lack of depth or development.

It's possible the writer was trying to give the reader an experience of his confused, frustrated, anguished mental state coupled
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sparse, diffuse, honest, beautiful book of vignettes. Rich with intellectual and ethical concerns. Fairly non-narrative and fragmentary. Reading it felt like looking at a person reflected back from a shattered mirror. A quiet, satisfying non-revelation in the end. A human interior, almost ruthlessly self-examines.
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nick Flynn’s writing is incredibly soulful

This is the second memoir of Flynn’s that I have read. I love his writing. It is sensitive and very intuitive. I’m looking forward to the next memoir to come out.
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly about darkness but not dark. I was copying down quotes and ideas constantly. I wish I knew anyone else who read this so we can discuss. It's one of those books. Loved it. I'm buying everything else he's written. Even the poetry.
Salty Swift
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If there ever was a definitive statement on the case for a society not to abuse prisoners of war, this is it. Heart-breaking, ugly, raw and humane. A must read.
phyllis stoffman
Timely reflections on USA wars and
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A vry thought provoking and deep text which is set in motion by a reflexion on torture, so not an easy read, and photography.
May 27, 2011 rated it liked it
more than halfway through, thoughts to come...

Finished it awhile back and wanted to add a few things.

I appreciate (but do NOT always love) the intermingling of the personal and the political. Sometimes it's powerful and necessary- to tell one's own personal testimony within or apposite to the backdrop of history is a way to deepen the narrative and provide crucial insight...etc...but sometimes it's more like white guilt writ large.

I'd be loath to damn Flynn's book with this accusation. But as
Elizabeth Trundle
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
can you let go of something and embrace it at the same time.
what decides where our attention goes and how do we resist evil.
we never do anything on purpose bad. but bad things happen. we fuck up.
good also happens, good gets done, the world wakes up again the next day.
this book is inspired in the way it draws lines between the big and the small things in our lives.
it underlines our lack of control, even as it tries to nail everything down.
Ryan Healy
Nov 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Ticking is the Bomb: A Memoir by Nick Flynn
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. , 2010

In his latest book, The Ticking is the Bomb, critically acclaimed memoirist Nick Flynn explores exactly what it means to be a man, an American, and a parent in the violent and tumultuous world that we live in today. Bouncing around through time – but always making note of when each chapter takes place – Flynn deals with such powerful issues as confronting our deepest
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
“The Ticking is the Bomb” by Nick Flynn. W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2010.

Nick Flynn’s second memoir titled “The Ticking is the Bomb” is written with a much more serious tone than his premier memoir “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.” There are several themes braided throughout the novel, the topic of torture is heavily explored, he awaits the birth of his daughter, and reflects on his relationships with family and significant others. Overall the piece radiates insight into human
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Nick Flynn is an American poet, memoirist, and playwright.

His most famous book is a memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. He has published two collections of poetry: Blind Huber, and Some Ether, which won the inaugural PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Further honors include a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2001 Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling
“Some mornings you wake up fully in your body, and you know this is all there is--the air, the shape your body makes in the air, your hand, the skin that covers your hand, the air that covers your skin, the light that fills the air, a few colors in the light, this one thought, this dream dissolving--it is a dream that, in your half-awake state, embarrasses you. You don't tell it to the woman waking up beside you, the woman you love, because it is about another woman, whom you might also love. This is the dream you need to hold onto, this is your shadow speaking, attempting to bewilder you again. Sometimes, if you lay still, you can feel the air entering each cell, sometimes you can feel the blood in your lips. Sometimes, if you lay very still, you can feel the whole web tremble.” 26 likes
“(2002) In Rome, month upon month, I struggled with how to structure the book about my father (He already had the water, he just had to discover jars). At one point I laid each chapter out on the terrazzo floor, eighty-three in all, arranged them like the map of an imaginary city. Some of the piles of paper, I imagined, were freestanding buildings, some were clustered into neighborhoods, and some were open space. On the outskirts, of course, were the tenements--abandoned, ramshackled. The spaces between the piles were the roads, the alleyways, the footpaths, the rivers. The bridges to other neighborhoods, the bridges out...In this way I could get a sense if one could find their way through the book, if the map I was creating made sense, if it was a place one would want to spend some time in. If one could wander there, if one could get lost.” 9 likes
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