From The Paris Review:
The Ticking Is the Bomb, the second memoir by nonfiction writer and poet Nick Flynn, describes his experiences with fatherhood, writing, and the Abu Ghraib torture victims, some of whom he met personally.
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.
Any notes from your time with them that weren’t in the book, after your having more time and distance to reflect?
I hope that their humanity came through in the pages, how each had internalized what had happened to them in completely different ways. All of us, we laughed a lot during our time together, when we weren’t hearing about atrocities.