magic hours


The best thing about Tom Bissell: He is fun. I think of him as “a wild and crazy guy.” I’m by turns entertained and completely aghast at his antics. He is totally obsessive. He’s watched that appalling movie The Room a bajillion times. I loved the idea of him and David Foster Wallace negotiating gravely about whether or not they ought to dip tobacco together (they did). Bissell, apparently, travels all over the place with a hardcover copy of Infinite Jest, which is surely the most inconvenient thing outside of, like, a chihuahua, to have to pack in a suitcase. And I don’t know if he’s given it up by now (I hope so) but he used to drink 10 Diet Cokes every day. Ten! That is terrible, Tom Bissell! I worry about him. Magic Hours demonstrates clearly the bind of being a modern essayist: One must present oneself as an authority, but an authority who is also compelled to confess that to be human is necessarily to be weak, frightened, flawed. The position is somewhat irreconcilable, and the discomfort thereby engendered also speaks to something very deep, I suspect, in the kind of North American reader liable to have picked up the book in the first place. It’s a very familiar discomfort.

more from Maria Bustillos at The LA Review of Books here.