Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bissell's Breakdown

First, a disclaimer: I haven't read much from Tom Bissell. I know that he's penned some fiction and a book about his interest in video games, which was mocked by the stuffiest-sounding critic the New York Times had to offer and Roger Ebert. When I read this dismissal I felt for Bissell: here was a man trying to thoughtfully explore a topic many of his literary peers simply wouldn't understand.

Then today, one of my favorite blogs shared their lukewarm reaction to one of Bissell's short stories. Bissell's reaction to their reaction was a bit bipolar. The author went out of his way to explain that he was, in fact, a productive writer (since the Ward Six post had openly speculated about the amount of work he'd put into the story) while sounding disgusted that his work ethic was being questioned.

I'm not sure who to side with; reading the story in question might help, but after the description I can't bring myself to do it. I think Lennon and Ellis are correct in their assessment; his story sounds like anything one might find in just about any other literary magazine this month. Then again, I sympathize with Bissell. A writer can come up with an idea, fend off self-doubt long enough to write a story based upon that idea, then spend months and months editing, then see that story re-worked by countless magazine editors, only to see their published piece of fiction casually dismissed. It's a horrible feeling.

That said, brutal honesty from readers must be better than no reaction at all.

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