Buzz Bissinger came, saw and ranted

Buzz Bissinger, local journalist and author of the widely acclaimed book “Friday Night Lights” that was the basis for the popular NBC series, is the featured speaker at a fundraiser Thursday for the Spells Writing Lab.

The Philly Spells writing lab, whose board includes bestselling authors Elizabeth Gilbert, Lisa Scottoline, and Jennifer Weiner, works to develop the creative writing abilities of school children with free school programs, weekend workshops, and camps.

Bissinger promised a no-holds-barred conversation about fatherhood, writing, and the art of the rant at the fundraiser. In an interview with Metro yesterday, he started the rant early.

The man who also wrote the definitive book on Ed Rendell’s time in the mayor’s office, “A Prayer for the City,” derided Mayor Nutter as “not having much visible presence.” He then backed down a little from his criticism.

“Ed is larger than life,” said Bissinger, who won the Pulitzer Prize for a story on corruption in the Philadelphia courts system. “Ed’s brilliance was that he was able to infuse the city with optimism and enthusiasm. Nutter took over during a much more difficult economic climate.”

Bissinger, who has made a living in part by annihilating others by pen, urges Philadelphians “not to be so hard on the city and to think big.” He is thrilled that the Barnes Foundation was finally able to move to the Parkway, enabling it to be a major cultural attraction for the city.

Bissinger’s tone visibly changed when he talked about the cross country trip he took with his son Zach — who suffered brain damage at birth — that is the basis for his new book “Father’s Day”.

The author, who is unwavering in his belief that the injury-plagued Phillies are not going to have a winning season, was less sure about the reviews of his own fatherhood.

“Zach comes out great in the book. Me not so much,” said Bissinger. “As a parent, you have aspirations for your child. It was hard to come to grips with the reality. Our cross country trip was the first time I spent substantial time alone with Zach. I learned many marvelous things about my son that I did not know before. He is capable of empathy, has a steady personality, is observant, and independent.”

Bissinger hopes “Father’s Day” gives “voice to the voiceless.”

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