Last Monday was the highly anticipated reading from award winning poet and memoirist Nick Flynn. It was standing room only as people piled in from the hallways, finding places along the walls and aisles to nestle themselves. Amy Antongiovanni, an English professor at Butte College who put the reading together, got up to introduce the man of the hour. She wrote a beautiful introduction discussing his writing and how it leaves us all in awe- Flynn is a true master with words. Then finally, Nick Flynn stepped to the podium with a huge round of applause from the ecstatic audience.
Now, I’ve been to many readings in my lifetime, some are better than others, but this one was without a shadow of a doubt the best I’ve ever attended. The very thing he did was make sure everyone was comfortable, that everyone could hear, and to express his thanks because he had never read to so many people. He started with a poem about some time he spent in Santa Cruz at a coffee shop, when a Californian walked in with a large stone and proceeded to have, what seemed like, a coffee date with it. Flynn said it seemed so Californian him, that if this were to happen in Brooklyn there would be problems. The poem he wrote from this experience was beautiful, tapping into the love this man he didn’t know had for this stone that Flynn himself found so odd.
His next poem was about the small Massachusetts town he was born in, Scituate. Flynn was saying he had heard Chico was a huge party town but that it did not compare to Scituate. His poem detailed the abundance of bars and liquor stores who made their own “special blends.” Of the dependency of this elixir all the townspeople had, including his grandmother, grandfather, father, and so on. In the poem he recalled writing a paper in elementary school about what he did over winter break, “I went skiing in Vermouth” a mistake his teacher did not correct.
It is obvious that alcohol and the ism that goes with it affected Flynn in major ways. His memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, deals with his absentee, alcoholic father. It deals with the replacement men his mother dated and married, also alcoholics. His life was saturated from an early age with this lifestyle. As many of you know, Another Bullshit Night was made into a film starring Robert De Nero and Julianne Moore titled “Being Flynn.”
Flynn recalled being on set and read from his most recent book, due out soon, about the experience of making the film. He said it has come full circle- form the experience, to the memoir, to the movie, to the book about the movie making process- which he compared to Xeroxing something one to many times. He talked about his father’s reaction, how he wasn’t surprised that a movie was being made about him. He recounted the funny anecdotes his father said during the times he met with the director. At one point, De Nero wanted to meet the man he was playing, Flynn’s father was hardly impressed, asking De Nero, “So you like to act huh? You do a little acting?” De Nero smiled, “Yeah, I do a little acting.”
Flynn recalled the times now spent with his father, having to remind him of his life. His father knows ha has a son named Nick Flynn, yet it seems like Flynn has to tell him he is that son. The way he spoke about him now was with empathy and love. This now old man, who was once the cause of so much pain and confusion, seems so simple, sad, and in need of love. It was, for me, beautiful to sit back and see the progression and acceptance of who they each are and what they mean to each other.
Flynn was hilarious throughout the entire evening while being very personable with the audience. He encouraged the audience members to ask questions as they came to us, letting us know he would not find it rude if one was shouted out between pieces. He joked with us, showed us slideshows, and stayed around afterwards to sign copies of books for every eager fan that patiently waited in line. He has gone from being one of my favorite authors to one of my favorite people.