This coming week, SJSU’s Center for Literary Arts fall series shifts into high gear with three events highlighting novelist, poet and playwright Nick Flynn. Flynn is best known for his memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and his second book of poems, Some Ether, which nabbed the 1999 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry. His work has been featured in major periodicals and journals such as The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker and the Paris Review. Enhancing his name recognition, his memoir was recently made into the film Being Flynn, starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore.

Much of Flynn’s work explores his dysfunctional family and childhood. Suck City, centers on the first-time meeting of the author and his alcoholic and homeless father. The poems in Some Ether are mostly about his mother’s suicide when he was a young adult. But while Flynn’s life story is novel in itself, what really sets him apart is the way his erudite prose takes the reader through such dreadful circumstances. He has a singular ability both to describe such personal catastrophes and exist amid them without sacrificing his voice.

In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Flynn spoke of tough times beyond his fractured family and the hardship in his life when he worked at a homeless shelter: “I was young and quite lost and grieving. I’m not sure why working at a homeless shelter made sense to me, except that I needed to immerse myself in some sort of larger real-life situation to get me out of the cage of my mind.”

That cage couldn’t hold what he had to say. After earning a MFA in creative writing from New York University, Flynn published two poetry collections in a single year, Some Ether and Blind Huber, both of which were critically acclaimed and garnered numerous awards. One poem, “Bag of Mice,” earned the Discovery/The Nation award. The work also led to a Guggenheim Fellowship for Flynn. Then, just three years later, he published Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the art of the memoir and cemented his reputation as a brave and lucid writer with quite a story to tell.

Since that remarkable start, Flynn has remained an active writer, with The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir and Alice Invents a Little Game and Alice Always Wins: A Play. He also teaches at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program.

His appearance for the Center for Literary Arts includes a showing of Being Flynn (Oct. 2, 7pm, at SJSU Engineering 189), a reading and booksigning (Oct. 3, 7pm, Engineering 189) and a talk with Tom Barbash (Oct. 4, 1pm, King Main Library, Room 225/229). All the events are free.

Nick Flynn
Center for Literary
Arts Fall Series
Oct. 2-4, SJSU