Author Nick Flynn wants Readers to Wake Up ... Or Not
For a man who's written two memoirs, including the popular Another Bullshit Night in Suck City which was adapted into the Robert De Niro film Being Flynn, author Nick Flynn doesn't think seem to think that fans are very interested in his life. Actually, he doesn't think he has any fans.
"I don't know if someone like me has fans really," he tells Art Attack. "Fans is a very funny word, it sounds like a scary relationship. I sometimes know a lot of the people at some of my readings but those are either my friends or acquaintances, so I don't look at them as fans. It's not like groupies come to my readings," he laughs.
Flynn, who teaches creative writing at the University of Houston, shares the stage with neuroscientist David Eagleman on Sunday during the MFAH Film Special Presentation: A Conversation with Author Nick Flynn. The pair will be discussing Flynn's newest release, The Reenactments: A Memoir. The book picks up where Another Bullshit Night in Suck City left off. That book told the story of Flynn's life during his early twenties. Trying to launch his career as a writer, he took a job at a homeless shelter and subsequently met his estranged father, a shelter resident. Reenactments details Flynn's experience in making Suck City into Being Flynn, a movie with Robert De Niro, in 2012, recounting such moments as his being on set during the filming of his mother's suicide and the depiction of his father's long-term homelessness.
"Very quickly after Another Bullshit Night in Suck City came out, I found out that people don't really care about you at all. People have busy lives and they're thinking of themselves. They go to art events or a reading to get a reflection of their lives. Its really not about you, it's about what you can say to them about their own lives. I think I wrote the book in such a way that it's not really just a book about me. Hopefully other people can relate to it on some level."
Central to Flynn's writing are the concepts of consciousness and perception. And with Reenactments, the idea of memory, which is part of what Eagleman, who is director of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at the Baylor College of Medicine, will focus on during their talk. "I think so much of our lives, through memory, is some sort of reenactment. We keep reliving experiences over and over. What that means, to play things over and over in your life, is sort of the central question in this book."
At first Flynn says his ideal reader is someone who's fully aware, but then changes his mind and says he's happy to share his writing with readers who are completely unaware as well. "The art that I like is work that requires the viewer or the reader to be actively involved in the making of the meaning. I try to keep the reader actively engaged, so that you don't sleepwalk through the book, that you actually show up for the book. I would hope that you would be wide awake and the experience of reading would make you even more wide awake. That would be my ideal reader." Flynn pauses before he goes on, "You know now that I say that out loud, I realize I can't control any of that. I guess you could read the book to fall asleep at night and that would be fine too. Or you could have the book read to you while you're in a coma. That would be fine. Actually, anybody can have any experience they want with the book and all of them would be fine."
MFAH Film Special Presentation: A Conversation with Author Nick Flynn starts at 2 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, visit the museum website or call 713‑639-7300. Free with paid $8 to $13 museum admission.