Synopses & Reviews
In Magic Hours
, award-winning essayist Tom Bissell explores the highs and lows of the creative process. He takes us from the set of The Big Bang Theory
to the first novel of Ernest Hemingway to the final work of David Foster Wallace; from the films of Werner Herzog to the film of Tommy Wiseau to the editorial meeting in which Paula Fox's work was relaunched into the world. Originally published in magazines such as The Believer
, The New Yorker
, and Harper's
, these essays represent ten years of Bissell's best writing on every aspect of creation be it Iraq War documentaries or video-game character voices and will provoke as much thought as they do laughter.
What are sitcoms for exactly? Can art be both bad and genius? Why do some books survive and others vanish? Bissell's exploration of these questions make for gripping, unforgettable reading.
"In essays spanning a decade, many previously published in Harper's and the Believer, Bissell (Extra Lives) peels back the layers of what it means to create and the toll creation often takes on its practitioners. While writers and writing are by no means his only subjects, Bissell is particularly astute when it comes to the arbitrary nature of literary fame. In 'Unflowered Aloes' and 'Grief and the Outsider,' he considers the longevity of literary fame, and of works by the likes of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Herman Melville that originally met with withering scorn. Bissell turns to the screen and his tiny hometown of Escanaba, Mich. in 'Escanaba's Magic Hour,' narrating both the evolution of a film shoot by 'Movie People' (as outsiders, a common theme in the collection) and Bissell's own relationship with the town of his birth. Documentary film is explored in 'Rules of Engagement,' where the act of creating a compelling story here documentaries depicting the Iraq war is an exercise in both truth and fiction. Never pedantic or self-congratulatory, Bissell says that he never set out to write nonfiction, and perhaps it's this backdoor approach that makes his observations on craft and the many avenues that lead to the written word all the more powerful. Agent: Heather Schroder, ICM." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Tom Bissell is at his best in this terrific collection." Geoff Dyer
"Every one of Bissell's pieces is like some great, transfixing documentary you stumble on while channel-surfing late at night — something you feel, in that moment, a kind of gratitude toward for redeeming your sleeplessness. Considered alongside his fiction, this new collection makes clear that Tom Bissell is one of our most interesting and ambitious writers." John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
"Sharply observed, lushly descriptive and often extremely funny." Salon
"Bissell writes astutely, smartly, and with acerbic candor." The Boston Globe
"A highly gratifying literary experience."
Los Angeles Review of Books
"Bissell's essays are brutally honest, thoughtful and entertaining to the nth degree."
Portland Book Review
"Entertaining, informative and exquisitely readable."
"Full of beauty."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"[Tom Bissell] writes these essays with a storyteller's eye for detail."
New York Times Book Review
"A whip-smart, occasionally pugnacious collection of essays on culture from a wide-ranging critic....Stellar cultural writing — Bissell has the knowledge and wit to earn his provocations." Kirkus (Starred Review)
About the Author
Tom Bissell is the author of Extra Lives, Chasing the Sea, God Lives in St. Petersburg, and The Father of All Things. A recipient of the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Bay de Noc Community College Alumnus of the Year Award. He teaches fiction writing at Portland State University and lives in Portland, Oregon.