Event Review: Buzz Bissinger

For the first time, the NWS opened the event with a reading from a fellow student of mine, and I must say, it was phenomenal. Brian Czyzyk took the stage and captivated the audience from the very first word of his original poem, Wolf Pup, to the very last. I look forward to more readings like this in the future. I think it was a great way for the community to have a sneak peek into what we are doing in the Front Street Writers class.
The event continued with more familiarity as guest, Buzz Bissinger, and
interviewer, Neal Rubin, took the stage. Rubin sat on the left in his argyle sweater, faded jeans and loafers, Buzz on the right in a black t-shirt, black blazer, the skinniest black jeans I have ever seen on someone who was not a Jonas Brother, and pirate boots. They couldn’t have looked more different, yet the subsequent conversation proved that looks can be deceiving.
The audience got a taste of Bissinger’s sense of humor with Rubin’s first
question, an inquiry into Buzz’s heroes. Bissinger named off a few big names, then casually ended saying, “I would really like to meet Matthew McConaughey, the guy has a six pack within a six pack.”
Throughout the night, there were little bits of comic relief like this, to which the
audience reacted appropriately, laughing along and bursting into random bits of applause at times. Neal and Buzz joked about standing ovations and if the audience decided to throw money onto the stage, it would be just fine with them. The two seemed to hit it off as far as an interviewer and interviewee can do so.
The event wasn’t all fun and games, however. Buzz was edgy and passionate, about truth especially.
“Everyone wants to spin, no one wants to admit failing,” he said.
Bissinger put an emphasis on the fact that all journalists ever say is “tell the
truth,” but when it comes to themselves, people tend to don the rose colored glasses or turn the other cheek momentarily.
“We don’t take enough f***ing chances,” Bissinger said. “If a book doesn’t get
bad reviews, it’s not a good book”
Bissenger’s latest book, Father’s Day, is definitely one that takes chances. It is
about a cross-country trip Buzz took with his son, Zach. Zach is a savant, unable to express abstract thought, but if given a date, he can name the day of the week it was on. “His memory is not his past, it’s his present,” Buzz said. Zach loves to go back and look at old buildings because he can remember things about them most people would never notice in the first place. On the trip, Buzz took Zach to look at many old buildings, and other various adventures, but the journey was not without tension and conflict.
According to Bissinger, the best way to reveal a relationship is through interactions, so that’s exactly what he did, with brutal honesty, in Father’s Day.
Critics of Father’s Day question the reliability of a trip pre-planned specifically
for the purpose of writing material.
“We’re mining for material,” Bissinger said. “As you get older, it gets harder.” I
found this response especially interesting.
Earlier in the season, author Lee Child sat in the same seat as Bissinger and happened upon a similar subject. He, however, had almost the exact opposite opinion, that it is much harder for young people to write because they don’t yet have the life experiences that good writing requires. I found the contrast between these two opinions to be rather intriguing. I think both men have very valid points, but it really goes to show how one man’s opinion can’t simply taken as gospel.
I found this event to be rather thought provoking. Like most NWS events, I had no idea what to expect going in, but, as usual, I was not disappointed. Buzz Bissinger is a very unique man. I loved how incredibly truthful he was, even when saying something he knew the audience would most likely not agree with. One moment he would be heatedly discussing the “truth,” and the next he would be talking about his son with such warmth and compassion, that it was quite touching. He seemed to be very true to not only himself, but also his son, Zach.
Neal Rubin did a fine job interviewing Bissinger. He stayed within the time limits, and kept the event on track the whole time. I would definitely hear Buzz speak again, and after watching the event, I look forward to reading some of his work.
Chloe is a member of Front Street Writers and a senior at Traverse City West High School. She will be attending Michigan State University in the fall.