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Nick Flynn diffused
The photos of the Abu Ghraib torture victims struck a cord in poet Nick Flynn, and he followed the feeling until he found himself traveling to Istanbul to meet them personally. The Ticking Is the Bomb, a memoir about the dark places he visited both across the world and within himself, emerged from this experience. The Paris Review dialogues with Flynn about his memoir and his forthcoming book of poetry.
Going back to the book’s organization, I love how the scenes with the Abu Ghraib victims are juxtaposed with more personal scenes; it doesn’t establish equivalence, but it mixes the intimacies and distances of both in really gripping ways. Is there any one thing that you want readers to take away as far as our connection to the victims is concerned?
With the Abu Ghraib photographs I was never interested in the question of how our soldiers came to torture other human beings, or even in how Dick Cheney came to authorize it. That Dick Cheney is pro-torture surprises no one; he freely admits it. That soldiers do terrible things during wartime should not surprise us. So at some point the book became about the darker impulses we all carry within us, which led me to examine my own darker impulses. The only way to break out of these darker impulses, for me, was to make a human, face-to-face connection with some of the ex-detainees from the photographs. This is always the only way out.