Epic Re-Naming Fail: "Being Flynn"

Those of you who have seen the TV series "Californication" know that the show's foundational joke is that bad boy novelist Hank Moody's Bukowskian cri de coeur "God Hates Us All" was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster called "A Crazy Little Thing Called Love." It's a good joke, and if it seems too much of a parody, it's not.

I just finished Nick Flynn's terrific, edgy and literate memoir, "Another Bullshit Night In Suck City," which, when made into a film, was retitled "Being Flynn," an incredibly innocuous title for one of the least innocuous books going. In fact, the original title is essential as it captures the foul misanthropic attitude of author Flynn's father, Jonathan, the subject of much of the book. It's not just a matter of "being Flynn" in Jonathan's case, it's a matter of being an amoral con man with delusions of himself as a great novelist; a man given to drunken jags on vodka, the occasional passing of fraudulent checks, and outbursts of racist and homophobic invective and violence. Maybe not communicated so well in the name change!

Here's the passage where the author introduces the title phrase. There are many modes of writing in the book, from straightforward description to a sort of deadpan surrealism. This one is an poetic meditation, written from inside the mind of the father, now homeless in Boston.
If not for the rats you could crawl beneath a bush. A bush. A bench. A bridge. The alliterative universe. Rats too can pass through that needle's eye to enter heaven, as easily as they pass into a box imagined into a house. Houses inside buildings, houses inside tunnels, some exist for only a day, some, miraculously longer. This box held a refrigerator, the refrigerator is in an apartment, a man is in the box. Tomorrow the box will be flattened and tossed, you've seen the garbagemen stomping them down to fit into the truck. Wake up on grass, soaking wet. Dew is the piss of God. Another bullshit night in suck city, my father mutters.
The "plot" of the book, such as it is, is quite good, including great reflections on the author's time working at the Pine Street Inn, Boston's largest homeless shelter. But most of all, it's Nick Flynn's superb writing and portrayal of human pathos that makes "Another Night" a riveting read. Oh, and I haven't seen the movie. Yet?

UPDATE: 2-26-14

A related Crime Against Literature is to put a movie star's face on the cover of a classic, for example retrofitting Jane Austen book covers with images of Colin Firth and Keira Knightley and the like.


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