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The Month Ahead: Books

What to read, watch and listen to in January


With The Reenactments, writer Nick Flynn examines the art that imitated his life

NICK FLYNN DIDN’T SET OUT to write a memoir inspired by the movie based on his previous memoir. When the Boston-bred poet, author and playwright showed up on set each day during the filming of Being Flynn, back in spring 2011, it was as a consultant: helping to make sure, say, that a homeless shelter felt like the one in which he’d once worked.

But, filmmaking being what it is, there were also long stretches with absolutely nothing to do. That’s when the author of Another [expletive] Night in [expletive] City, the 2004 memoir that inspired Being Flynn, would pull out his notebook.

“It was so odd—there’s Julianne Moore, dressed as my mother—I just wanted to capture the moment, what my impressions were,” he says. “I knew this experience would never be repeated in my life.”

That said, the elegant little book that grew out of Flynn’s notebook scribbles, The Reenactments, has a great deal to do with reliving experiences. Alongside meditations on everything from phantom limb pain to collective memory, Flynn describes seeing key moments from his past playing out on set: the day of his mother’s suicide; the night his estranged father, played by Robert De Niro, comes into the homeless shelter to ask for a bed.

That’s not to say that Being Flynn, which was scripted by director Paul Weitz, is slavishly true to the original memoir. And Flynn’s fine with that. “The thing about a film is there’s so many layers to making it. The costumer, for instance, sent me emails with links to De Niro wearing, maybe, a hundred different coats to try to figure out which ones my father would wear, which ones he wouldn’t.

“It’s such a collaborative process, I wouldn’t even say the film is 50 percent me,” he adds. “Divide by the number of people who worked on it, and that’s what percentage I am—one-100th or something.” JAN. 7

Coming up with an MPAA-friendly substitute for the, ah, vivid name of Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir wasn’t easy. Here, the author shares a peek at getting to Being Flynn.

Welcome to [expletive] City: “People fled a test screening with this name, perhaps thinking it was an adult movie. Besides, this title was just a diluted version of the original. And we didn’t want anyone to think the film itself was diluted.”
The Greatest: “I liked the idea of calling a film about a homeless alcoholic The Greatest. That was my father’s sense of himself and, delusional or not, perhaps part of what eventually got him off the streets.”
[Something] Flynn: “Before we settled on Being Flynn, the possibilities—all quickly rejected—included Outside Flynn, Inside Flynn, Alongside Flynn, Beyond Flynn, Following Flynn, Failing Flynn, Downbound Flynn, Headlong Flynn, Wayworn Flynn and The Other Flynn.”

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My Beloved World, the new memoir by Sonia Sotomayor, provides an inspiring look at the woman who rose from the South Bronx projects to become the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice—and reveals a few surprising stops on her way to the top. JAN. 15

Playground bodyguard to her kid brother: “… Any bully thinking of messing with him would have to mix it up with me first. If I got beat up on Junior’s account, I would settle things with him later, but no one was going to lay a hand on him except me.”

Bouncer at a grad student watering hole at Yale: “… I was a more than adequate bouncer. Nobody could talk their way past me, and I ejected many a townie trying to climb in through the window to avoid the cover charge.”

Would-be covert operative: “[After receiving a doll with a concealed tape recorder for Christmas] I sent my cousin Miriam into the kitchen with the doll to bug the adults’ conversation, knowing that I would have been immediately suspect.”

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