We use cookies for site personalization, analytics and advertising. You can opt out of third party cookies. More info in our privacy policy.   Got it

The Ticking is the Bomb

The Ticking is the Bomb

Part memoir, part social commentary, part philosophical inquiry, US writer Nick Flynn’s book builds on his earlier autobiography, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.  As with that work, Flynn's memories of his mother (who committed suicide when he was young) and his turbulent relationship with his alcoholic father feature strongly. Structured around the months leading up to his daughter’s birth, Flynn’s narrative cartwheels back and forth through his life, stretching back to his childhood, his work in a homeless shelter in Boston, and his travels as an itinerant lecturer and successful author.

Initially, I found the book’s baggy structure and solipsistic focus irritating – despite his chaotic upbringing and literary lifestyle, Flynn has as many boring days and banal thoughts as the rest of us. I was also deeply unconvinced by his quest for redemption through his baby daughter, and his charmless habit of presenting universal emotions as if newly minted by his own thought-processes.

However, the book comes into its own with Flynn’s consideration of Abu Ghraib and other US ‘black sites’. He examines the arguments in favour of torture advanced by politicians, military and media and, with insight and precision, uses their own flawed logic and morality to demolish their shoddy justifications.

It is these philosophical inquiries into the darker corners of the human psyche, rather than any dazzling insights into Flynn’s personal life that form the emotional core of this book. Although we could have done with more of the former and considerably less of the latter, The Ticking is the Bomb still has merit and deserves close and careful reading.


New Internationalist issue 431 magazine cover This article is from the April 2010 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Subscribe today »


Help us produce more like this

Editor Portrait Patreon is a platform that enables us to offer more to our readership. With a new podcast, eBooks, tote bags and magazine subscriptions on offer, as well as early access to video and articles, we’re very excited about our Patreon! If you’re not on board yet then check it out here.

Support us »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop