Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996-97) is the author of Extra Lives, Chasing the Sea, God Lives in St. Petersburg, and The Father of All Things. He is the recipient of the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Bay de Noc Community College Alumnus of the Year Award. He lives in Los Angeles, but knowing Tom, he might not be there long. When we were last in touch, he was teaching in Portland, Oregon. Previous to that, he lived in New York City, Ho Chi Minh City, Rome, Las Vegas, and Tallinn. And this is a guy who is from the middle of nowhere, Escanaba, Michigan.
What keeps him on the move is his writing and research. Tom has just published a new collection of essays that “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 Tommy Wiseau’s disastrous cult classic The Room to the editorial meeting in which Paul Fox’s Desperate Characters was relaunched into the world.
In these essays, Tom asks a lot of questions, including: What are sitcoms for exactly? Can art be both bad and genius? Why do some books survive and others vanish?
The book has received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. It is a collection of essays from one smart RPCV that is well worth reading.
Magic Hour Essays on Creators and Creation was published in trade paperback last month by Believer Books, a division of McSweeney’s. If you are interested in good writing, the creative process, and wise words, pick it up.