By Tom Bissell
Believer Books, $14.00, 256 pages
Award-winning writer Tom Bissell’s new book, Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation, is a collection of his best stories published over the last decade in magazines such as The New Yorker and Harper’s. In them, Bissell, who refers to himself as an “accidental non-fiction writer”, studies the creative process in various mediums including literature, film and TV. In one essay, he tackles small town themes in middle America during the making of an indie film in Escanaba, Michigan – his home town. In another, he gives an insider’s glimpse into the films of Werner Herzog and the man himself. “Grief and the Outsider,” is especially illuminating and biting in its struggle to both make sense of and refute the claims of the Underground Literary Alliance.
“Literature is always written by outsiders.”
His insider stories of the publishing industry, gleaned from his days as an assistant editor at W.W. Norton, are an eye opener and must-read for anyone dreaming of writing the great American novel. He says, “Of course, that any good book sees publication is a miracle on par with the loaves and the fishes.” Bissell’s essays are brutally honest, thoughtful and entertaining to the nth degree.
Reviewed by Diane Prokop