Bookforum Interview with Tom Bissell


In case you missed it—it was first posted a couple months ago—Bookforum has an excellent interview with Tom Bissell:

So here’s my thing: I think you can only be a snob about one thing. And I’m a snob about fiction. Well, maybe snob is the wrong word to use, but you know what I mean. My standards are unwaveringly high when it comes to literature. But I have terrible musical taste, terrible movie taste. I will happily watch the most brain-dead sitcom. People who are uniformly snobby in that way—we call those people friendless. Because what happens to people is they become rageballs. If your standards are that high across every aesthetic field, how can you walk down the street without just being in a state of constant indignation? It would drive you crazy.

I probably also tend toward the “snobbish” when it comes to literature, but my favorite movie of all time is Back to the Future. (Which is not to say that BTTF is not a pretty damn fine movie that holds up under more intense scrutiny. I’ve been meaning to write an essay on this.) Bissell’s broader point: it’s okay to have high tastes in certain areas, which is probably inevitable. But to subject yourself to excessively high standards across the board is to become a “rageball.” One has to have fun with art at some point, right? I pity the person who is too snobby to get all excited over Taken 2.

By the way, I’m reading Bissell’s fine collection Magic Hours right now. Highly recommended if you dig essays.

Bonus link: His interview with The Rumpus.

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  1. Pingback: On reading bad books. | greg walklin

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