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Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation Paperback – April 3, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's, Believer Books; Original edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936365766
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936365760
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #688,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2012: In these ambitious and enthusiastic "Essays on Creators and Creation," journalist Tom Bissell explores the will-to-art through an expansive cast of makers working in a variety of media. From a reverent exploration of the "mirages" of filmmaker Werner Herzog to a vitriolic, almost embittered screed against the prolific historian Robert D. Kaplan, Bissell's collection--compiled from more than a decade's worth of magazine writing--offers an impressive range of emotion, an unflagging intellect, a constantly engaging style, and a menagerie of compelling subjects. Hemingway? Check. David Foster Wallace? Check. Iraq War films? A sitcom producer? The world's most prolific female video-game voice-over specialist? Check, check, check. And if the idea of a nonfiction artist's writing about other creators strikes you as charmingly self-referential, then "Writing About Writing About Writing"--Bissell's survey of other writers' how-to-write books--will leave you ensorcelled. --Jason Kirk

From Bookforum

Bissell is an assured and engaging first-person narrator, which is a rarer ability than many first-person writers know. While his body stands around, his line of thought is agile and ever-moving, from the observational to the philosophical, from the personal to the general. He is agreeable, even when the reader may disagree with him. — Tom Socca

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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Peeples on April 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Magic Hours, like John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead: Essays, is an essaystic blend of personal remembrance and non-fictional reportage. Perhaps another named entered your mind upon reading that. Basically, the two are trailing after (as all writers of the same or younger generation) David Foster Wallace. And yes, DFW followed Pynchon, Barth, Gaddis, etc., and the personal essay has been around since Montaigne, and James Agee wrote what is called the "Bible of non-fiction" with Let Us Now Praise Famous Men back in the 30s, but, for modern readers and writers of the personal essay/creative non-fiction, DFW is an unshakable influence. He's a damn killer lion of a writer, even in death, especially in death.

Fitting then that both Bissell and Sullivan have written about Wallace--Sullivan for GQ on The Pale King and Bissell in Magic Hours ("Great and Terrible Truths") on Wallace's Kenyon College commencement speech that was later published as This is Water.

All right. So I'm saying: Bissell (and Sullivan, but we're writing about Bissell here) is not David Foster Wallace. He would agree. I doubt he'd be offended. Just ignore the book blurbs and New Yorker pull-quotes proclaiming "the next David Foster Wallace," because it's not true. Bissell (and Sullivan) is his own writer, even if he's not DFW.

Magic Hours is a collection of essays concerning the act of creation. Bissell himself, from the Author's Note: "To create anything--whether a short story or a magazine profile or a film or a sitcom--is to believe, if only momentarily, you are capable of magic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Colleen O'Neill Conlan on August 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
An interesting collection of essays, profiles, and reviews about various creative figures in popular culture. Bissell turns his focus on those who make films, documentaries, video games, and especially literature. The subjects might be quite famous (David Foster Wallace and his commencement speech, Jim Harrison about the writing life in Montana, Chuck Lorre on the set of his various wildly successful sitcoms-before the implosion of Two-and-a-Half Men star Charlie Sheen). Or they may be famous only in certain circles (the woman who does the voice-over on video game Mass Effect, Tommy Wiseau, the director of the film The Room). Depending on your interest in the topic, you'll be more drawn to some of these essays than others.

I rather like an essay where the author is present but not central, where he is part of the action, but that the narrative doesn't revolve around the writer's thoughts and feelings and commentary. Bissell does this very well. These are not at all "personal essays," but his personal presence makes the writing all the better. My favorite pieces are "The Theory and Practice of Not Giving a Shit" about writer Jim Harrison (Legends of the Fall and scads others), an old family friend and hunting buddy of the author's father. Harrison lived and wrote in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where Bissell grew up, before moving to Montana. Bissell goes there to spend time and talk writing. Another favorite is "Unflowered Aloes," about how some of the literature we now consider American classics was "saved" or rediscovered and passed along through time, seemingly by strange esoteric luck. A side piece to this essay was Bissell's own involvement in republishing Desperate Characters, a novel by Paula Fox that fell out of print.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Reading these essays made me realize that good pop culture writing will make you want to read or watch a few new things. I finish this smart, passionate book with new respect for Jim Harrison and Werner Herzog, a new way of looking at Mass Effect 3, and a strange desire to watch Tommy Wiseau's "The Room." Your own list may vary, but there's no question that Bissell is a thoughtful, funny guy with a talent for clever descriptive sentences.
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I've been a fan of Tom Bissell ever since I read his essay on his addiction to cocaine and GTA IV. He's a master. These essays are similarly great.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Alonzo Rumfelt on January 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
Bissell connects his essays with the theme of the creator and the act of creating, whether that is in film, TV, fiction or video games. I'll confess that I did not read that essay: i.e. "The Invisible Girl," because I have no interest in video games or in how they are made.

The essays I most enjoyed are: "The Theory and Practice of Not Giving a S***," in which Bissell visits the author, Jim Harrison (Legends of the Fall) and "Writing about Writing about Writing."

Harrison has the persona of the gifted artist; that special person who has been touched by the Nine Muses, maybe he has. There is a definite agon, here, with Hemingway, et al; it could be fun to look at Harrison in light of Harold Bloom's Anxiety of Influence.

I do look forward to reading more of Tom Bissell's work, which I'll approach with curiosity and pleasure.
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