“On Richard Bissell” by Elmore Leonard (1988)
Posted: 06 April 2007 08:37 PM   [ Ignore ]
Power User
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  485
Joined  2005-10-08

“On Richard Bissell”
Title: Rediscoveries II
Publisher:: Carroll & Graf, 1988
Edition: First Edition
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 340 pages
Special Notes: “Important Writers select their favorite work of neglected fiction.” ; Chapter on Richard Bissell by Elmore Leonard

Comments–by Elmore Leonard from Rediscoveries II:

I told Bob Nally at lunch in Cape Girardeau that Richard Bissell had influenced my style more than any other writer with the exception of Ernest Hemingway. It’s a fact that I learned to write studying Hemingway, inspired and encouraged by a style that appeared easy to imitate….

About the time I realized Hemingway’s views of life in general and mine weren’t compatible I discovered Richard Bissell and heaved a great sigh of relief. Look–his work said–you can keep it simple, be specific, sound authentic, even ungrammatical if you want, and not act as though your words are cut in stone.

But I discussed Bissell in Cape Girardeau from some gray memory that his work had changed my thinking about writing, giving the idea that I could adapt his style to my sound and within a million words or so have a style of my own.

It wasn’t until I got home and began rereading Bissell that I realized what a profound effect his work has had on mine: not in themes or settings but in the development of the attitude we seem to share about people’ the idea of the author getting down in there with his people, because he likes them, and letting them tell the story. Bissell showed me you could write a book without it looking as if it was written.

… Bissell’s skill in bringing the reader onto that towboat and into the messroom and out on the barges is the book’s strength. But it’s also a good story that builds with the rising water, dangers faced and Duke falling in love with a girl they rescue from the rook of a flooded fishing camp. It’s high adventure told low-key, not the least bit plotty, with Bissell maintaining his riverman’s tone throughout. High Water was published more than fifty years ago but I swear it holds up. A few of the odd expressions might be dated, but for the most part the sound is regional rather than recently archaic.


Los Angeles Times
December 26, 1999, Sunday, Home Edition

Elmore Leonard

I have to go with Richard Bissell (1913-1977) as an American writer who is sorely neglected–emphasis on American. He wrote High Water and A Stretch on the River among others, novels set on the Mississippi River. Bissell is the only American writer since Mark Twain, who wasn’t bad either, with a license to pilot river boats. He also wrote 7-1/2 Cents which was adapted as the musical “The Pajama Game.” I learned three-quarters of what I know about writing from reading Richard Bissell, God bless him.

MORE ON RICHARD BISSELL

Elmore’s Five Favorite Books
Gregg Sutter
Posted: 07 July 2007 04:08 PM
Administrator

“All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. The first book that inspired me to write. I set a play in no man’s land and staged it in my fifth-grade classroom in 1935.

“For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway. Horses and guns. When I was writing Westerns I’d read a few pages to get in the mood. I still read his short stories.

“High Water” by Richard Bissell. By the time I realized Hemingway didn’t have a sense of humor, Bissell came along to help me develop a natural style.

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” by George V. Higgins. The best crime novel ever written. I read it and learned how to do bad guys.


“Legends of the Fall” by Jim Harrison. This is pure storytelling, a novella in 25,000 words or less, with only one line of dialogue. And the book glows with life.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 November 2008 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Power User
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  485
Joined  2005-10-08

I just finished HIGH WATER by Richard Bissell

Wow. 

The entire story is carried by people talking.  Novel idea.  The voice is there throughout.  It doesn’t have the city or desert, but this is the Elmore Leonard book he never wrote in the fifties. 

I think it is more important than THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE.  The violence and dirt is less in HIGH WATER, but the voice is better and it carries the story.

I really think that Mr. Leonard’s style owes a huge debt to this book.  It has been done before and after, but this is how to carry a book with talking—back stories and character development through conversation.

It is not a flashy or pretentious book.  It is straight from the mud of the river and it is great storytelling that develops without pattern.  If there is a structure, it is unknown to me how it works.

The following is from the HIGH WATER jacket copy:

[Follow the above link to the awesome cover—not enough half naked women on Elmore Leonard books, just MR. PARADISE.]

In HIGH WATER, Richard Bissell has written a drama of river life which has all the conviction, power, and gusto of A STRETCH ON THE RIVER - his first widly accaimed novel - and the racy humor of 7 1/2 cents, his gay, amorous story about a strike in a a pajama factory.  HIGH WATER is in the best tradition of the American river yarn - rugged and eloquent, fresh and exciting.

RICHARD BISSELL

From gray flannels to blue jeans, from pajamas to musical comedy costumes - nothing is ordinary about the career of Richard Bissell.  He went from Exeter to Harvard to become and Ordinary Seaman, then secured a mate’s and pilot’s license - both all tonnage - on the Upper Mississippi and Monongahela rivers, the only author so licensed since Mark Twain. 

Bissell retired from the river in 1945 to work as factory superintendent and stylist in the family men’s-wear factory in Dubuque, Iowa.  Five years later his first novel, A STRETCH ON THE RIVER, won immediate critical acclaim.  His second novel, 7 1/2 CENTS, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection which Bissell and George Abbott adapted for the Broadway musical success THE PAJAMA GAME.

When he is not busy writing musicals and novels, Bissell spends his time with his wife, three sons and daughter in Stamford, Connecticut.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 February 2010 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Power User
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  485
Joined  2005-10-08

Los Angeles Times
Forgotten treasures of the last century, from 25 writers
December 22, 2009

In 1999, the L.A. Times asked dozens of writers to look back at the prior century and share books they considered lost treasures—books they loved that had slipped out of sight. Although the authors were formidable—including Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer, theorist Susan Sontag and popular novelist John Le Carré—most of their books remain relatively unknown. Not for want of trying: Editor Robert Giroux worked with E.E. Cummings in the 1950s and tried—but failed—to acquire the rights to Cummings’ book “The Enormous Room”—it was his selection for this list.

What follows are lost treasures from 25 writers, as they looked back in 1999.

André Aciman: “Count d’Orgel’s Ball” by Raymond Radiguet
Margaret Atwood: “Doctor Glas” by Hjalmar Söderberg
Anthony Bailey: two by Marc Bloch - “Strange Defeat” and “Souvenirs de Guerre 1914-15”
John Banville: “By Love Possessed” by James Gould Cozzens
Jacques Barzun: “Practical Agitation” by John Jay Chapman
Alain de Botton: “The Unquiet Grave” by Cyril Connolly
Thomas Flanagan: “Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the Civil War” by Edmund Wilson
Carlos Fuentes: “Paradiso” by Jose Lezama Lima; “Grande Sertão, Veredas” by João Guimarães Rosa and “The Flowering of New England” by Van Wyck Brooks
Robert Giroux: “The Enormous Room” by E.E. Cummings
Nadine Gordimer: “Turbott Wolfe” by William Plomer
Juan Goytisolo: “Petersburg” by Andrei Bely
Thom Gunn: two by Arnold Bennett - “The Old Wives’ Tale” and “Riceyman Steps”
Dave Hickey: “The Man Who Loved Children” by Christina Stead
Pico Iyer: “The Road to Xanadu” by John Livingston Lowes
Milan Kundera:  “The Man Without Qualities” by Robert Musil
John Le Carré: “The Good Soldier” by Ford Madox Ford and “Rogue Male” by Geoffrey Household
Elmore Leonard: two by Richard Bissell - “High Water” and “A Stretch on the River”
John Luckas: two by Jean Dutourd - “The Horrors of Love” and “Best Butter”
Frederic Morton: “Lieutnant Gustl” [also published as “None but the Brave”] by Arthur Schnitzler
Paul Muldoon: “Irish Journal” by Heinrich Boll
Cynthia Ozick: seven by Rudyard Kipling - “The Wish House”, “Dayspring Mishandled,” “Mary Postgate,” “The Gardener,” “The Eye of Allah,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Mrs. Bathurst”
Noel Perrin: “Far Rainbow” by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky and “The Walls Came Tumbling Down” by Henriette Roosenburg
Gregory Rabassa: “Internal War” by Volodia Teitelboim, “My World Is Not of This Kingdom” by João de Melo and “The Return of the Caravels” by Antonio Lobo Antunes
Susan Sontag: “And Then” by Natsume Soseki, “Jennie Gerhardt” by Theodore Dreiser, “Fateless” by Imre Kertész
Marina Warner: “Anthologie des mythes, legendes, et conles populaires d’Amerique” (“Anthology of Myths, Legends, and Popular Tales of America”) by Benjamin Peret

—Carolyn Kellogg

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 November 2010 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Power User
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  485
Joined  2005-10-08
Robb - 17 November 2008 02:23 AM

I just finished HIGH WATER by Richard Bissell

Wow. 

The entire story is carried by people talking.  Novel idea.  The voice is there throughout.  It doesn’t have the city or desert, but this is the Elmore Leonard book he never wrote in the fifties. 

I think it is more important than THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE.  The violence and dirt is less in HIGH WATER, but the voice is better and it carries the story.

I really think that Mr. Leonard’s style owes a huge debt to this book.  It has been done before and after, but this is how to carry a book with talking—back stories and character development through conversation.

It is not a flashy or pretentious book.  It is straight from the mud of the river and it is great storytelling that develops without pattern.  If there is a structure, it is unknown to me how it works.

The following is from the HIGH WATER jacket copy:

[Follow the above link to the awesome cover—not enough half naked women on Elmore Leonard books, just MR. PARADISE.]

In HIGH WATER, Richard Bissell has written a drama of river life which has all the conviction, power, and gusto of A STRETCH ON THE RIVER - his first widly accaimed novel - and the racy humor of 7 1/2 cents, his gay, amorous story about a strike in a a pajama factory.  HIGH WATER is in the best tradition of the American river yarn - rugged and eloquent, fresh and exciting.

RICHARD BISSELL

From gray flannels to blue jeans, from pajamas to musical comedy costumes - nothing is ordinary about the career of Richard Bissell.  He went from Exeter to Harvard to become and Ordinary Seaman, then secured a mate’s and pilot’s license - both all tonnage - on the Upper Mississippi and Monongahela rivers, the only author so licensed since Mark Twain. 

Bissell retired from the river in 1945 to work as factory superintendent and stylist in the family men’s-wear factory in Dubuque, Iowa.  Five years later his first novel, A STRETCH ON THE RIVER, won immediate critical acclaim.  His second novel, 7 1/2 CENTS, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection which Bissell and George Abbott adapted for the Broadway musical success THE PAJAMA GAME.

When he is not busy writing musicals and novels, Bissell spends his time with his wife, three sons and daughter in Stamford, Connecticut.

HIGH WATER is a good book.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 08 December 2010 04:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
New Member
Rank
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2010-08-03

I absolutely love HIGH WATER!

 Signature 

Wealthy Affiliate review

Profile