Same with Abu Ghraib. As nauseous as it made us, Flynn says, "it seemed like almost overnight, with those photographs, we [were saying], 'This isn't who we are,' but then said, 'Well, I guess this is who we are.' Nothing had changed except that we were willing to accept it. And then that starts us down this course."
Pens vs. swords
Flynn's most recent work has less of the formal boldness — playlets; wisps of poetry; repetitive, ellipses-pocked lists — that made Another Bullshit Night so unique. But it's marked by an experimentation of its own.
"It's sort of like an image cluster," says Flynn, aptly, of the book, which flits from placid mountaintop Vermont lakes to crumbling Giotto frescoes in Assisi. "It's like a ball of energy . . . these images sort of clustered around it and you touch one and you can sort of follow it into this mysterious center."
In other words, it's an honest, finely honed, and moving piece of art. But what power does art truly have in this day and age? How does art stand up against the loud, blustering certitude of Dick Cheney and Glenn Beck and the tea baggers?
"Look, you put a poem up against Sean Hannity — he's gonna win," says Flynn with a chuckle. "You can't really worry about it."
But, he continues, "there are two levels of any important art. There's the [specific] historical moment" — this hyper-political, post-Bush age — "and then there's the eternal moment. We sort of have to write for both; but a politician, or a pundit on Fox News, they're really doing it only for that one moment in time."
The wish, then, is that the current poisonous political climate, the horrible things flashing across our screens, and the bombastic screaming heads who defend them, will fade away. While art — and truth? — endures.
Early in the book, Flynn writes of his hope for the future. "One day, I'll tell my daughter a story about a dark time, the dark days before she was born, and how her coming was a ray of light. We got lost for a while, the story will begin, but then we found our way."
Mike Miliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.