cover image The Ticking Is the Bomb

The Ticking Is the Bomb

Nick Flynn, . . Norton, $24.95 (283pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06816-0

Award-winning poet/author Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City ) uses his daughter's imminent birth as a springboard to examine personal and political shakiness. Flynn jumps back and forth in covering his rocky childhood (his parents: a distraught, hard-living single mother; an ex-con, mentally wrecked father who was largely absent from Flynn's childhood), his struggles with women and sobriety, and adjusting to his daughter's arrival. Throughout this swirl of heartache and introspection, Flynn becomes obsessed with torture and America's acceptance of it after the infamous photos from Abu Ghraib are released. It's clear that Flynn is lost in his own life, and that he needs to find himself, or at least some stability, not just for his daughter's benefit but for his own. The accompanying narrative structure may isolate those who prefer a more straight-ahead style—the poetic interludes and scattered focus are sometimes more distracting than artistic—but Flynn's life is so volcanic and his writing style so kinetic and punchy that others will be drawn into this gripping personal narrative. (Jan.)