Nick Flynn's most recent book is The Reenactments (Norton, January 7, 2013), the final volume of his memoir trilogy. Though the memoirs are interconnected, each stands alone and is distinguished by a particular structure: Another Bullshit Night in Suck City is a linear narrative; The Ticking is the Bomb is a self-contained galaxy; and, finally, The Reenactments borrows its structure from the Hieronymus Bosch's triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights. The three panels in The Reenactments are "Memory," "Glass Flowers" and "The Making of a Film." The film in question is Being Flynn (2012), the adaptation of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, starring Robert DeNiro, Julianne Moore and Paul Dano. Flynn teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and lives with his wife, actress Lili Taylor, in New York.
On your nightstand now:
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. People from all corners of my life had been telling me to read it for years, that it was this amazing hybrid memoir, and finally it reached a tipping point so I picked it up and it really does do something I've never seen before, the way the images are able to deepen and complicate an already rich story. Rebecca Solnit's new book, The Faraway Nearby, is there as well, which I'm dying to crack open next. Solnit has been a hero of mine for many years.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Magic Monkey. I forget who wrote it, but I know it was an 11-year-old Chinese child, and if I remember correctly his sister did the illustrations. It is a retelling of the myth of Proteus, but perhaps it is also a retelling of a Chinese myth I don't know about. The monkey is, of course, an outcast, until he focuses his attention and learns that he is able to transform into nearly anything--tree, waterfall, tiger--as the situation warrants. This seemed like a good superpower to my 10-year-old self.
Your top five authors:
Samuel Beckett, Emily Dickinson, Jean Valentine, José Saramago, Rebecca Solnit. Each of these writers is completely unique, but each shares a talent for compression, for filling each word with an incredible energy. I am fully alive when I read their work.
Book you've faked reading:
The End by Salvatore Scibona. He is a pal, I was sent his book, I went to his book party, mumbled "congratulations," or "well done," something which was meant to suggest to him I'd read the book, but I hadn't, until recently, until two things happened: enough people kept telling me what an amazing book it was, and we spent a week in Paris together at a literary festival (where I remembered how much I liked him). When I got home, I finally sat down with it, when I knew I had some free space in my brain, and just loved it. It's one of my top five novels of the past 10 years, easily. Maybe top five ever.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl by Kelle Groom, a memoir which does more within any given paragraph than most books try for from cover to cover. Like all of Beckett, I read this book and have almost no idea how she does what she does, how she can move from a seemingly mundane detail into the deep mystery of what it means to be alive, from the start of a sentence to the period. It helps that she's a poet.
Book you've bought for the cover:
What Is the What by Dave Eggers. His McSweeney's imprint really does make beautiful books.
Book that changed your life:
Rilke's Duino Elegies, Stephen Mitchell translation. I'd tried to read Rilke for years but never really got him, then I read one of the elegies out loud to a girlfriend, and we were both literally breathless by the end, tears in both of our eyes. "For it seems that everything hides us...." That was a very good night.
Favorite line from a book:
"Where's papa going with that ax?" This is the first line from Charlotte's Web, which I don't know if I read as a child (maybe not), but I have now read it many times to my four-year-old, and was so tickled by this line--this is how a children's book should begin.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I remember reading Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men on a beach in Provincetown one summer afternoon. It was a paperback, and its spine was f***ed up, likely because I was living on a boat and so it got wet too many times. It was a windy day, the wind blowing along the shore, so windy that each page, after I finished reading it and turned to the next, was blown out of my hands and sent tumbling away from me down the beach. The first few times I tried to catch them, but then I gave up, and made it part of the experience of reading the book. I like to imagine someone on the far end of the beach catching each page, and reading the book that way. I think it made me pay even closer attention to each word, knowing I might never have the chance to read it again.