Pulphead Kindle Þ Paperback

Pulphead Kindle Þ Paperback


10 thoughts on “Pulphead

  1. Gabe Gabe says:

    Wildly uneven There are 14 essays in the book By my count, there are five excellent essays including one bonafide genius essay , three good essays, and six essays that did nothing for me, including one essay that, after I d finished the book and was looking back over the table of contents, I couldn t for the life of me remember reading That genius essay I mentioned is Violence of the Lambs, which is principally about the increase in unexplainable animal attacks in recent years Stingrays h Wildly uneven There are 14 essays in the book By my count, there are five excellent essays including one bonafide genius essay , three good essays, and six essays that did nothing for me, including one essay that, after I d finished the book and was looking back over the table of contents, I couldn t for the life of me remember reading That genius essay I mentioned is Violence of the Lambs, which is principally about the increase in unexplainable animal attacks in recent years Stingrays have started leaping into boats and stabbing people in their hearts Chimps have figured out how to craft spears, sharpening the blades with their teeth and killing bush babies with them Sullivan talks with eccentric professor Marc Livengood, who has been charting and recording these strange events The essay s tone becomes increasingly scattershot and paranoid, and ultimately culminates in a way that turns everything on its head It s the book s best moment, and is reason enough alone to read Pulphead The essays I found most engaging were the ones that made Sullivan himself stake a personal claim Peyton s Place is about a TV show using his house as a filming location and how it affected his family Mr Lytle An Essay is about a disaffected, young Sullivan moving in with an old man legendary in letters, and about how it shaped Sullivan as a writer when he hadn t yet found his way And Feet in Smoke is the most moving piece in the collection it s about Sullivan s brother s electrocution and resuscitation, and the one month that followed in which he became slowlycoherent as his brain pieced itself back together The less successful essays here, though it s clear Sullivan is just as engaged with his subjects, are the ones that distance through topic I m not against reading about blues musicians or the last living member of the Wailers, it s just I have to be convinced that this is something worth reading about, because these are topics that I wouldn t actively seek out Sullivan doesn t succeed in translating his interests for me in a number of these essays, and that s my biggest issue with his collection he s great, even exceptional, at giving you an added appreciation for subjects you already find engaging, but he s not able to make the reader appreciate something they hadn t previously considered You can write about The Real World for as long as you want, but unless you do something really, really different and special with it, I m going to have a hard time keeping up with you Still, I really enjoyedthan half of these essays, and the highs of those werethan enough for me to recommend Pulphead


  2. Kinga Kinga says:

    There is this strange thing with the US and its culture We all know all about them and they know not a thing about us If two people from different countries or even continents meet up, the conversation often gyrates around American usually pop culture It s the common ground When I moved to America for a year when I was 18, I didn t suffer a severe cultural shock although I was a little frightened by the size of hamburgers I knew the TV shows those kids watched, the music they listened t There is this strange thing with the US and its culture We all know all about them and they know not a thing about us If two people from different countries or even continents meet up, the conversation often gyrates around American usually pop culture It s the common ground When I moved to America for a year when I was 18, I didn t suffer a severe cultural shock although I was a little frightened by the size of hamburgers I knew the TV shows those kids watched, the music they listened to, and the celebrities they admired This phenomenon is sometimes bad, especially because it is not reciprocal, but at least I could read Sullivan s collection of essays without having to google everything If this was, for example, Pulphead Dispatched from the Other Side of Poland , it would need extensive footnotes for anyone outside of Poland to be able to understand it That, of course, would ruin the narrative.And the narrative in Pulphead is nothing short of amazing It s not only my opinion, many reviewers agree, so much that they hope he will start writing literary fiction which is understood to be a somehowsophisticated form To that Sullivan saysThat genre snobbery conceals a deeper stupidity If you look back to Defoe and that early 18th century period when the genres as we know them were being extruded, you find it gets messy The categories people like to play with when doing that hierarchy of genres don t exist they don t hold up to investigation, they re all feeding into each other and borrowing techniques from one another Here I suppose the cultural differences kick in for me In Poland, it s the reportage that seems to be the ultimate literary form just think Kapu ci ski , taken most seriously Sometimes you can even get the impression that fiction is considered a pastime suitable for schoolgirls only There are literary journals which only deal with essays, interviews and poetry, as if fiction was not good enough.I suppose I should start reviewing the actual book now, because I feel I m getting side tracked here So what does Sullivan actually write about To be honest anything He shares insightful personal stories, like the one about his brother, who after being electrocuted, spent two months in a sort of a bizarre daze Or the beautiful story about a family trip to Disneyworld At other times he goes on exploring some extremely niche subject distilling it to the point the average reader will actually give a damn, be it a story of deciphering obscure blues lyrics or exploring Native American cave paintings He likes to hang out with all these people that we only know as caricatures, like the Christian rock fans rocking on for Jesus , the Tea Party members, or The Real World cast offs I will come clean here and say I did have to google The Real World, as somehow for the past 30 years I have lived in a Real world free world Don t ask me how, I don t know myself that thing is huge It might because each time anyone mentioned the Real World I assumed they were talking about the actual real world It s also probably because I absolutely hate reality tv And this is not me being snobbish, because, we all know well, I will happily admit to many questionable entertainment choices, it s just reality shows I can t stand Reality TV, let s be honest, is just stupid people talking And I know, as an aspiring novelist, I should probably payattention to them, they might just tell me something that smart people haven t noticed, but I can t bring myself to watch it It s too tiring But that, again, is beside the point.Sullivan often goes back to Indiana, the state where he grew up, to investigate some little known facts from the lives of famous musicians who are also Hoosiers that means someone from Indiana I learnt a new word But maybe it s offensive, I don t know Better don t use it in public , and that is Michael Jackson and Axl Rose And let me tell you, the piece on Michael Jackson, was the best piece on Michael Jackson I ve ever read and I ve read many because when he died I was working in a boring job.Recently, I decided I would accompany my reviews with cooking, because why not Everybody likes a little bit of food porn, right So for Pulphead I decided to cook something typical of Indiana, as that state features so heavily in the book I m not going to pretend I hold American cuisine in a great esteem but I m not dismissing it either They must ve come up with some good corn based dishes in all those years Apparently the most classic thing for Indiana is its Pork tenderloin Sandwich It s basically a pork schnitzel bigger than a human head, deep fried and stuck in a hamburger bun So not exactly ground breaking, but decent comfort food As a Polish person I shouldn t have anything to say against pork schnitzel as it s our Sunday classic I used this recipe some REAL Hoosier said it was authentic although I didn t use Wondra instant flour wtf is that anyway It s funny how so many American recipes list ingredients that need a trademark next to them Just look at this baby I was defeated in the end and didn t finish it, but I put up a good fight That marinade actually truly kicks ass, I think buttermilk and garlic is the secret Also I didn t deep fry it, deep frying scares me Please note, I m reviewing here the UK version of Pulphead which has apparently been slightly amplified


  3. Adam Dalva Adam Dalva says:

    Uneven collection of essays, but when they re great, they re especially great I ve taught Feet in Smoke to my Rutgers class for a couple of years and it always makes an impact the contrast between Sullivan s story of his brother s near death experience and RESCUE 911 s rendition is an argument for creative writing American Grotesque is an uncanny reading experience in 2019, about the tea party in 2010 And Peyton s Place is a great story Sulli Uneven collection of essays, but when they re great, they re especially great I ve taught Feet in Smoke to my Rutgers class for a couple of years and it always makes an impact the contrast between Sullivan s story of his brother s near death experience and RESCUE 911 s rendition is an argument for creative writing American Grotesque is an uncanny reading experience in 2019, about the tea party in 2010 And Peyton s Place is a great story Sullivan s home was also the set


  4. Mike Puma Mike Puma says:

    John Jeremiah Sullivan is a free lance writer whose work has appeared in GQ, The Paris Review and Harper s Magazine. Pulphead gathers a diverse assortment of essays on various topics each told with a generous consideration of the personalities involved, nothing harsh or mean spirited Sullivan has gentle, easy going flow as if listening to a friend Good stuff Entries preceded by a might be of interest to those musically inclined or with an interest in music. Upon this Rock A fond recollecti John Jeremiah Sullivan is a free lance writer whose work has appeared in GQ, The Paris Review and Harper s Magazine. Pulphead gathers a diverse assortment of essays on various topics each told with a generous consideration of the personalities involved, nothing harsh or mean spirited Sullivan has gentle, easy going flow as if listening to a friend Good stuff Entries preceded by a might be of interest to those musically inclined or with an interest in music. Upon this Rock A fond recollection of an apostate Boy Howdy I can relate assigned to covering and writing about a christian rock festival Generous, non aggressive, critical, nostalgic, superb No harsh Hitchens, Dawson, or Harris here An excellent consideration of how these people encapsulate themselves in what Bill Maher refers to as life in a bubble Feet in Smoke An account of the author s brother s near death, post death, and gradual return to life experience told with humor and tremendous love very moving in a non maudlin sort of way, which is not to say, you re not a dick if you don t tear up a little.Mr Lytle An Essay Andrew Lytle was a friend and literary peer of Robert Penn Warren and Allen Tate as editor of Sewanee Review, he promoted the works of Flannery O Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Elizabeth Bishop, et al This essay chronicles a year in the author s life spent attending to the needs and whims of the celebrated last confederate told with great compassion, forgiveness, and respect Bravo At a Shelter After Katrina First hand accounts of acts of ingenuity and fellowship precede a premonition of the end of civilization.Getting Down to What Is Really Real The author describes a night out with former Real World personalities in their Real Life perpetuations of Reality TV fame where millions of other Real people wondered if the show was Really Real or Really scritpted Real people Really. Michael No matter what you think or thought of Michael Jackson, this brief essay will likely lead one to agenerous interpretation of the guy s life and work Generous I keep using that word , thoughtful, and well worth the short time it takes to read. The Final Comeback of Axl Rose Regardless of what you think of Axl Rose, or even if you think of AR, this brief essay chronicling the author s time spent researching the singer, getting to know his friends, watching concerts from the sides of the stage, will likely leave you thinking a littlefavorably of the Indiana boy the author feels akin to Personally, I still have a little trouble seeing what was and now is and thinking AR has become some bizarre mash up physically of Mickey Rourke and Bo Derek.American Grotesque After firmly establishing the First American Revolution as that which actually occurred in Bermuda among the passengers of the shipwrecked Sea Venture over socialism, you know the one immortalized by Shakespeare in The Tempest, the author goes on to describe attendance at a Tea Bagger 9 12 rally, the Right leaning perspectives of his insurance industry dependent family, and a death in Eastern Kentucky which, while questionable, was ruled a suicide by local authorities Oh, and he situates the health care debate within the perspective of at least one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who enabled the building of Philadelphia Hospital, in part, by tricking the assembly into matching funds for its construction Good stuff, BF.La hwi ne ski Career of an Eccentric Naturalist Biographical essay on the life of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, a French German naturalist, philosopher, geologist, poet, historian, and loon The author s family once boarded Rafinesque, and he presents his American experience with humor and care Rafinesque got pissy when Jefferson didn t include him in the Lewis Clark expedition, went back to Europe, and missed an opportunity to participate in the Red River expedition On his return, he spent years in the wild befriending Audobon and leaving his own largely overlooked mark on American natural history.Unnamed Caves The author describes his adventures in the named and unnamed caves of Kentucky and Tennessee, the archeologists who informed his expeditions, and the looters of artifacts from the caves, some better motivated than others, who ve secreted away amazing parts of American pre history. Unknown Bards Describes the author s experience researching Country Blues performers, lyrics, and recordings while introducing a bevy of blues artists they can t be called anything else predating Robert Johnson even fin de si cle greats largely forgotten by history An interesting assortment of characters BravoLast Wailer The author recommends listening to this while reading the essay so do I During a trip to Jamaica, the author has several interviews with Bunny Wailer, the last of the Wailers, in which he learns about Bob Marley s early life, Jamaican political history and garrisonism, Rastafarianism, pisses Bunny off, and cops what must have been one hell of a buzz with his driver.Violence of the Lambs A chilling consideration the increased number of animal attacks, the increased number of formerly non violent animals attacking, animals using weapons against humans, increased rate of genetic change in short periods of time, and phenotypic plasticity This one will give you pause.Peyton s Place Presents the author s experience of living in a celebrity house its brief appearance in David Lynch s Blue Velvet and its frequent appearance as the home of Peyton Sawyer in One Tree Hill The funny thing about this collection, or a funny thing about this collection, is that, once finished, readers get a sense of knowing the author and knowing him fairly well like a fictional character in a novel you ve really liked, only in this case, knowing the guy s out there doing what he does and doing it very well.


  5. Alan Alan says:

    one for the plane going over to the States I thought I d better read something American, and this has been on my to read list for two years and finally came in at the library.One measure of a non fiction book could be what it makes you go and do After or during this one I was looking up Native American cave paintings in Tennessee, downloading Joe Higgs Life of Contradiction, listening to Billie Jean and contemplating Disney s attempts at whitewashed utopia The book is full of fascinating e one for the plane going over to the States I thought I d better read something American, and this has been on my to read list for two years and finally came in at the library.One measure of a non fiction book could be what it makes you go and do After or during this one I was looking up Native American cave paintings in Tennessee, downloading Joe Higgs Life of Contradiction, listening to Billie Jean and contemplating Disney s attempts at whitewashed utopia The book is full of fascinating essays , ranging from the writer s teenage internship with Mr Lytle, the 92 year old survivor of the 30s Southern Agrarian literary movement which included Robert Penn warren and Allen Tate there was a homo erotic element to it Lytle says Tate propositioned him once,but I turned him down I didn t like his smell he had the stale scent of a man who didn t take any exerciseto a beautiful and sympathetic essay on Michael Jackson It was the perfect book to read while in America, written with style, skill, knowledge, generosity and enthusiasm The essay on the cave paintings was breathtakingly good, you felt his awe as he entered the caves to see some that were 8,000 years old Similarly his essay on old blues singers Unknown Bards in which he proudly deciphers a word on an old recording I d contributed a speck of knowledge, a little ant s mouthful of knowledge and delights in hearing how to unwarp a record place between two pieces of glass in gentle sunlight In another he smokes dope with Bunny Wailer, the last member of Bob Marley s group, and hallucinates Strange things were happening to Bunny s face as he spoke Different races were passing through it, through the cast of his features black, white, Asian, Indian, the whole transnational slosh that produced the West Indies He loves reality TV and follows a star Miz a guy who s given me so much joy over the years on his nightclub circuit You the reader go with the flow as he signs breasts and dances grinds with fans He is surprised at how much he enjoys a Christian rock festival OK not so much the bands as a bunch of guys he stays with The book even made me momentarily sympathise with the Tea Baggers American Grotesque , that s how good it was However there were two niggles one was the editor s note at the end of the piece on the increase in animals attacking humans The Violence of the Lambs Big parts of this piece I made up I didn t want to say that, but the editors are making me, because of certain scandals. I made up Marc Livengood a major character in the essay I made up the trip to Nairobi. Then there was the bit where Bunny Wailer distances himself from the author Both made me wonder about overall veracity I read all except the one on Axl Rose not for long I was in Washington and saw a march by the American Spring go by complaining about Obama s healthcare programme There were about 30 of them, doing the military style chanting, as we sat in the Hirshhorn Sculpture garden Earlier I had been approached by several beggars in the Chinatown area as I waited for my daughter, three of them said they couldn t afford their medications One, a former policeman, showed me the scars from his surgeries for the bone disease he had Another, clearly mentally ill, cried and grasped my daughter s arm and said she wanted to be normal again she didn t have the 8 dollars needed for her medication OK, they might be scamming me, an obvious tourist But just before I came to America I watched Breaking Bad a teacher can t afford his healthcare and turns to drug production to finance it, and then later a policeman is in the same situation A teacher and a policeman Yes, it s fiction, but surely the point is made only the comparatively rich can afford specialist healthcare Thank God for the NHS


  6. Elaine Elaine says:

    Let s get one thing out of the way John Jeremiah Sullivan can write Really well About almost anything So, already, that makes this compilation of long form essays worth exploring But then there s the way that for someone of our generation , he captures the zeitgeist of our youth so well, especially the guilty pleasures There are a lot of moments where I said wow I was at that Axl Rose show at Hammerstein Ballroom that night he made his come back wow, I loved The Real World, and Mike Let s get one thing out of the way John Jeremiah Sullivan can write Really well About almost anything So, already, that makes this compilation of long form essays worth exploring But then there s the way that for someone of our generation , he captures the zeitgeist of our youth so well, especially the guilty pleasures There are a lot of moments where I said wow I was at that Axl Rose show at Hammerstein Ballroom that night he made his come back wow, I loved The Real World, and Mike Miz and Cheryl and The Challenge and also, wow we all loved Michael Jackson, even when we didn t So, yes, he s a good pop culture journalist probably among the best writing today But, unlike many Goodreads reviewers, those were not the essays that captivated me the most I was most fascinated by the essays that featured Sullivan the Southern boy, very localized in a part of the mid Southeast, and very focused on Southern history and culture that is always already JUST beyond our grasp This deep sense of place, history, and the ephemerality of reality, of knowledge, is on its best display in two seemingly paired masterworks and I know I m in the minority here , Unnamed Caves and Unknown Bards Unknown Caves introduces us me, at least to an entire world of cave art in the Southeastern US ranging in age from 8,000 no typos to 800 years old, in other words, pre Columbian elaborate artifacts of an intensely intricate and incredibly ancient succession of cultures that will always be pretty mysterious because they had no written language And then he introduces you to the rednecks who loot these sites, continuing what has been going on since the Spanish, so that some guy in the backwoods has all these incredibly unique artifacts of a culture you ve never even heard of Seriously, you know this s it happened in Greece, and China, and Mexico, but it s happening in your own backyard History happened here, and we aren t protecting it This is one of those essays that has you hanging on every word, wanting to learneverything about the world he s exposing you to, about the knowledge that you are only glimpsing through his eyes The same for Unknown Bards, about the obscure early roots of blues, about the attempts to understand , to follow, to preserve some 100 year old recordings that glimpse at a culture almost as impossible to reach as the Woodlands cave artists of the Unknown Cave So too, Mr Lytle, where Sullivan serves a very particular internship at the feet of a 92 year old Southern writer who knew Penn Warren and had one foot in the Confederacy In other words, for me, Sullivan is at his best where he s getting very granular about something I had no idea I wanted to know about I even loved the essay about the barmy genius French Sicilian polymath naturalist of the 19th century, which no one else on GR seemed to like Partly, that s because, as with pop culture, he shares some of my obsessions the ephemerality and relativity of time and history He s very keen on what we can never know, and how closely we missed knowing it It s a very compelling perspective, and provokes a lot of thought, especially in this age where Google and Wikipedia can delude you into thinking that everything is known or knowable Sullivan will remind you that, even though we might only be a handful of generations from the Civil War on the one hand, on the other, we will never know what a blues singer a scant century ago of whom perhaps a single copy of her song survives meant by one slurred word At one point, in one of his many meditations on time, Sullivan notes that you can be certain that there are a few big bloopers in currency right now, ideas that in a few hundred years will seem obviously, demonstrably, scientifically wrong and that we can have no idea what those are It s the way he looks at things, coupled with a thirst for knowledge, and I love it Love it.So why not a 5 Because there are a few duds in here, and a few off moments I found American Grotesque, where he tries to get in the heads of the Tea Party, flat, and there were other off moments as well But this was awfully close to a 5


  7. Patrick Brown Patrick Brown says:

    This book, without going overboard, exploded my brain In one of my progress updates, I said it was like an album where every song is perfect and the sequencing is exactly right And that s still how I feel about it The scope of this collection kept telescoping out as I was reading it At first, it seemed like a book about the American South, and the role it plays in both the author s life and that of America today, but as I read on, it expanded It was about America, really where it s at now This book, without going overboard, exploded my brain In one of my progress updates, I said it was like an album where every song is perfect and the sequencing is exactly right And that s still how I feel about it The scope of this collection kept telescoping out as I was reading it At first, it seemed like a book about the American South, and the role it plays in both the author s life and that of America today, but as I read on, it expanded It was about America, really where it s at now and where it had been and a little bit of where it might be headed Every essay in the book is a marvel on its own While I wasn t as fascinated by the Rafinesque piece in the middle of the book If this were an album, that piece would be the 20 minute long epic that anchors it , but I admired the style My favorite essays were Feet in Smoke, about Sullivan s brother after a near death experience, and Getting Down to What s Really Real, about the surreal ha life of Real World alumni who are paid to go clubbing and partying I once wrote an essay of my own about reality TV, and I was absolutely humbled by Sullivan s take on it Though mine is still pretty funny, I think And I didn t interview anyone for it, so, you know If you haven t read Blood Horses Notes of a Sportswriter s Son, this is a great introduction to an immensely talented author, one with incredible range If you have read Blood Horses, then there s no introduction needed You already know what a badass Sullivan is


  8. David David says:

    This winter I ve been reading a lot of nonfiction collections, hitting a lot of big names along the way Updike, Hitchens, Schama, Didion John Jeremiah Sullivan was someone I had never heard of until I stumbled across this collection in the bookstore, but I m happy to report that his writing has an idiosyncratic charm that puts him right up there with the big guys.As with any collection of essays, there are a few duds in this collection Sullivan s pieces on Axl Rose and on Michael Jackson s This winter I ve been reading a lot of nonfiction collections, hitting a lot of big names along the way Updike, Hitchens, Schama, Didion John Jeremiah Sullivan was someone I had never heard of until I stumbled across this collection in the bookstore, but I m happy to report that his writing has an idiosyncratic charm that puts him right up there with the big guys.As with any collection of essays, there are a few duds in this collection Sullivan s pieces on Axl Rose and on Michael Jackson seemed meandering, a little self indulgent, with no obvious point But these are the exceptions They arethan offset by the essays Upon This Rock , Lahwineski Career of an Eccentric Naturalist , Mr Lytle , in each of which Sullivan takes a topic about which I had no prior knowledge or interest and writes about it in a way that is spellbinding Besides a fluid, unassuming writing style, Sullivan s gift is to write about obscure topics in a way that engages the reader s interest and sympathy.Reading the jacket cover for Pulphead , I see comparisons to the essays of David Foster Wallace This seems partially correct to me Sullivan has the same ability to take the most unlikely subject and make it fascinating to the reader, and like DFW, he writes with great empathy and without condescension He does not, however, display the self consciousness that plagued DFW, nor does his writing suffer from the kind of stylistic tic that can result when an author worries too much about the impression he may be making He does not match Foster Wallace s brilliance, but he is definitely smart and compassionate enough to merit your attention John Jeremiah Sullivan is an author worth looking out for This is an excellent collection


  9. Oriana Oriana says:

    Spied twice in one week on CoverSpy, called a badass by an FSG staffer, and listed on Flavorpill s 25 Greatest Essay Collections of All Time Why haven t I read this already Well, because I forgot all about it I wrote the above in 2012, when the book came out, and since I didn t rush out to buy it right away, it vanished entirely from my brain So much so that when I was at a friend s house scanning her shelves for something to read on a flight and she suggested this one, I said, What, isn t Spied twice in one week on CoverSpy, called a badass by an FSG staffer, and listed on Flavorpill s 25 Greatest Essay Collections of All Time Why haven t I read this already Well, because I forgot all about it I wrote the above in 2012, when the book came out, and since I didn t rush out to buy it right away, it vanished entirely from my brain So much so that when I was at a friend s house scanning her shelves for something to read on a flight and she suggested this one, I said, What, isn t that a memoir about a soldier at war No you dope, she said gently That s Jarhead I mean DUH Anway I am certainly very late to the party in saying that John Jeremiah is a stellar writer, but oh la he surely is sharp and piercing and incisive and shivery, whether his sights are sets on an obscure to the point of veritable nonexistence blues caterwauler, his older brother s near death experience, or the history of a Native American death cult as told through cave drawings And yet this book, not even 10 years old, already feels like a sweet lovely relic of ainnocent but less enlightened time, when it was a given that everyone used AOL, when the word trannie was tossed about willy nilly, when bitter old closeted white Southern literary titans took in rugged young white Southern literary mentees to groom and possibly prey upon sexually, when a writer could spend weeks or months and a very healthy travel stipend on just one longform magazine article that probably wouldn t even be the cover story.I wonder what John Jeremiah is writing now, and for whom, and whether he is still talking so casually about being groped by his old gay mentor like a chambermaid, with all the sexism and cultural blindness and obliviousness to power that a metaphor like that suggests I hope he s a littleenlightened now, has been able to adjust with the times, because he s a crushingly stunning tale teller He can describe a YouTube clip of Michael Jackson or a live performance by Axl Rose so thoroughly and with such attendant emotional depth that you wouldn t dream of hunting it down to watch because you ve pretty much already seen it He explains a geological plateau and a sharecropper s dancehall and the streets of Trench Town with such precision that you d never think to Google, because you already know it all, basically as if you d experienced it yourself I loved this so much, is what I m saying This is a great moment for essays and these essays are great for really any moment Now to find and figure out how to gently stalk John Jeremiah so I can keep reading whatever bursts forth next from his splendid imagination


  10. Todd Todd says:

    I wanted to give this guy five stars, but the two stories in the middle were snoozers and a few of the endings were rushed and, accordingly, awful Of the latter, the ending to the essay about Axl Rose such a good essay was so disappointingly bad that I almost didn t like the essay What I like most about this guy is that he isn t a sarcastic, cynical prick After having just read a few stories by George Saunders, I appreciate this fact and Sullivan evenThree things From the first essay I wanted to give this guy five stars, but the two stories in the middle were snoozers and a few of the endings were rushed and, accordingly, awful Of the latter, the ending to the essay about Axl Rose such a good essay was so disappointingly bad that I almost didn t like the essay What I like most about this guy is that he isn t a sarcastic, cynical prick After having just read a few stories by George Saunders, I appreciate this fact and Sullivan evenThree things From the first essay, about Creation I ve been to a lot of huge public events in this country during the past five years, writing about sports or whatever, and one thing they all had in common was this weird implicit enmity that American males, in particular, seem to carry around with them much of the time Call it a laughable generalization, fine, but spend enough late afternoons in stadium concourses, you feel it, something darker than machismo Something a little wounded, and a little sneering, and just plain ready for bad things to happen 16 17 In Manhattan and Brooklyn, I felt this at nearly every bar In Michigan, I can sometimes feel it at the supermarkets It s bad and it s spreading, and Sullivan was right on the money about it being a wounded, dark feeling From the essay Lytle An Essay Confusion to the enemy 63.This has nothing to do with Sullivan because it was Lytle s toast, but what a perfect toast it is From The Final Comeback of Axl Rose What Axl does is lovely, I m sorry If I could, I would be doing that as I walk to the store 132.Yes A great writer fun to read makes the bizarre, mundane, and already written about into fresh and exciting stories


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Pulphead [Download] ✤ Pulphead ➺ John Jeremiah Sullivan – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk In Pulphead, John Jeremiah Sullivan takes us on an exhilarating tour of our popular, unpopular, and at times completely forgotten culture Simultaneously channeling the gonzo energy of Hunter S Thompso In Pulphead, John Jeremiah Sullivan takes us on an exhilarating tour of our popular, unpopular, and at times completely forgotten culture Simultaneously channeling the gonzo energy of Hunter S Thompson and the wit and insight of Joan Didion, Sullivan shows us with a laidback, erudite Southern charm that s all his own how we really no, really live now In his native Kentucky, Sullivan introduces us to Constantine Rafinesque, a nineteenth century polymath genius who concocted a dense, fantastical prehistory of the New World Back in modern times, Sullivan takes us to the Ozarks for a Christian rock festival to Florida to meet the alumni and straggling refugees of MTV s Real World, who ve generated their own self perpetuating economy of minor celebrity and all across the South on the trail of the blues He takes us to Indiana to investigate the formative years of Michael Jackson and Axl Rose and then to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina and back again as its residents confront the BP oil spill Gradually, a unifying narrative emerges, a story about this country that we ve never heard told this way It s like a fun house hall of mirrors tour Sullivan shows us who we are in ways we ve never imagined to be true Of course we don t know whether to laugh or cry when faced with this reflection it s our inevitable sob guffaws that attest to the power of Sullivan s work.

    Pulphead Kindle Þ Paperback Sullivan shows us with a laidback, erudite Southern charm that s all his own how we really no, really live now In his native Kentucky, Sullivan introduces us to Constantine Rafinesque, a nineteenth century polymath genius who concocted a dense, fantastical prehistory of the New World Back in modern times, Sullivan takes us to the Ozarks for a Christian rock festival to Florida to meet the alumni and straggling refugees of MTV s Real World, who ve generated their own self perpetuating economy of minor celebrity and all across the South on the trail of the blues He takes us to Indiana to investigate the formative years of Michael Jackson and Axl Rose and then to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina and back again as its residents confront the BP oil spill Gradually, a unifying narrative emerges, a story about this country that we ve never heard told this way It s like a fun house hall of mirrors tour Sullivan shows us who we are in ways we ve never imagined to be true Of course we don t know whether to laugh or cry when faced with this reflection it s our inevitable sob guffaws that attest to the power of Sullivan s work."/>
  • Paperback
  • 365 pages
  • Pulphead
  • John Jeremiah Sullivan
  • English
  • 13 August 2019
  • 0374532907

About the Author: John Jeremiah Sullivan

John Jeremiah Sullivan is an American writer and editor He is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor of Harper s Magazine, and southern editor of The Paris ReviewSullivan s first book, Blood Horses Notes of a Sportswriter s Son, was published in It is part personal reminiscence, part elegy for his father, and part investigation into the history and culture of the Thoroughbred racehorse His second book, Pulphead Essays , is an anthology of fourteen updated magazine articles.


10 thoughts on “Pulphead

  1. Gabe Gabe says:

    Wildly uneven There are 14 essays in the book By my count, there are five excellent essays including one bonafide genius essay , three good essays, and six essays that did nothing for me, including one essay that, after I d finished the book and was looking back over the table of contents, I couldn t for the life of me remember reading That genius essay I mentioned is Violence of the Lambs, which is principally about the increase in unexplainable animal attacks in recent years Stingrays h Wildly uneven There are 14 essays in the book By my count, there are five excellent essays including one bonafide genius essay , three good essays, and six essays that did nothing for me, including one essay that, after I d finished the book and was looking back over the table of contents, I couldn t for the life of me remember reading That genius essay I mentioned is Violence of the Lambs, which is principally about the increase in unexplainable animal attacks in recent years Stingrays have started leaping into boats and stabbing people in their hearts Chimps have figured out how to craft spears, sharpening the blades with their teeth and killing bush babies with them Sullivan talks with eccentric professor Marc Livengood, who has been charting and recording these strange events The essay s tone becomes increasingly scattershot and paranoid, and ultimately culminates in a way that turns everything on its head It s the book s best moment, and is reason enough alone to read Pulphead The essays I found most engaging were the ones that made Sullivan himself stake a personal claim Peyton s Place is about a TV show using his house as a filming location and how it affected his family Mr Lytle An Essay is about a disaffected, young Sullivan moving in with an old man legendary in letters, and about how it shaped Sullivan as a writer when he hadn t yet found his way And Feet in Smoke is the most moving piece in the collection it s about Sullivan s brother s electrocution and resuscitation, and the one month that followed in which he became slowlycoherent as his brain pieced itself back together The less successful essays here, though it s clear Sullivan is just as engaged with his subjects, are the ones that distance through topic I m not against reading about blues musicians or the last living member of the Wailers, it s just I have to be convinced that this is something worth reading about, because these are topics that I wouldn t actively seek out Sullivan doesn t succeed in translating his interests for me in a number of these essays, and that s my biggest issue with his collection he s great, even exceptional, at giving you an added appreciation for subjects you already find engaging, but he s not able to make the reader appreciate something they hadn t previously considered You can write about The Real World for as long as you want, but unless you do something really, really different and special with it, I m going to have a hard time keeping up with you Still, I really enjoyedthan half of these essays, and the highs of those werethan enough for me to recommend Pulphead

  2. Kinga Kinga says:

    There is this strange thing with the US and its culture We all know all about them and they know not a thing about us If two people from different countries or even continents meet up, the conversation often gyrates around American usually pop culture It s the common ground When I moved to America for a year when I was 18, I didn t suffer a severe cultural shock although I was a little frightened by the size of hamburgers I knew the TV shows those kids watched, the music they listened t There is this strange thing with the US and its culture We all know all about them and they know not a thing about us If two people from different countries or even continents meet up, the conversation often gyrates around American usually pop culture It s the common ground When I moved to America for a year when I was 18, I didn t suffer a severe cultural shock although I was a little frightened by the size of hamburgers I knew the TV shows those kids watched, the music they listened to, and the celebrities they admired This phenomenon is sometimes bad, especially because it is not reciprocal, but at least I could read Sullivan s collection of essays without having to google everything If this was, for example, Pulphead Dispatched from the Other Side of Poland , it would need extensive footnotes for anyone outside of Poland to be able to understand it That, of course, would ruin the narrative.And the narrative in Pulphead is nothing short of amazing It s not only my opinion, many reviewers agree, so much that they hope he will start writing literary fiction which is understood to be a somehowsophisticated form To that Sullivan saysThat genre snobbery conceals a deeper stupidity If you look back to Defoe and that early 18th century period when the genres as we know them were being extruded, you find it gets messy The categories people like to play with when doing that hierarchy of genres don t exist they don t hold up to investigation, they re all feeding into each other and borrowing techniques from one another Here I suppose the cultural differences kick in for me In Poland, it s the reportage that seems to be the ultimate literary form just think Kapu ci ski , taken most seriously Sometimes you can even get the impression that fiction is considered a pastime suitable for schoolgirls only There are literary journals which only deal with essays, interviews and poetry, as if fiction was not good enough.I suppose I should start reviewing the actual book now, because I feel I m getting side tracked here So what does Sullivan actually write about To be honest anything He shares insightful personal stories, like the one about his brother, who after being electrocuted, spent two months in a sort of a bizarre daze Or the beautiful story about a family trip to Disneyworld At other times he goes on exploring some extremely niche subject distilling it to the point the average reader will actually give a damn, be it a story of deciphering obscure blues lyrics or exploring Native American cave paintings He likes to hang out with all these people that we only know as caricatures, like the Christian rock fans rocking on for Jesus , the Tea Party members, or The Real World cast offs I will come clean here and say I did have to google The Real World, as somehow for the past 30 years I have lived in a Real world free world Don t ask me how, I don t know myself that thing is huge It might because each time anyone mentioned the Real World I assumed they were talking about the actual real world It s also probably because I absolutely hate reality tv And this is not me being snobbish, because, we all know well, I will happily admit to many questionable entertainment choices, it s just reality shows I can t stand Reality TV, let s be honest, is just stupid people talking And I know, as an aspiring novelist, I should probably payattention to them, they might just tell me something that smart people haven t noticed, but I can t bring myself to watch it It s too tiring But that, again, is beside the point.Sullivan often goes back to Indiana, the state where he grew up, to investigate some little known facts from the lives of famous musicians who are also Hoosiers that means someone from Indiana I learnt a new word But maybe it s offensive, I don t know Better don t use it in public , and that is Michael Jackson and Axl Rose And let me tell you, the piece on Michael Jackson, was the best piece on Michael Jackson I ve ever read and I ve read many because when he died I was working in a boring job.Recently, I decided I would accompany my reviews with cooking, because why not Everybody likes a little bit of food porn, right So for Pulphead I decided to cook something typical of Indiana, as that state features so heavily in the book I m not going to pretend I hold American cuisine in a great esteem but I m not dismissing it either They must ve come up with some good corn based dishes in all those years Apparently the most classic thing for Indiana is its Pork tenderloin Sandwich It s basically a pork schnitzel bigger than a human head, deep fried and stuck in a hamburger bun So not exactly ground breaking, but decent comfort food As a Polish person I shouldn t have anything to say against pork schnitzel as it s our Sunday classic I used this recipe some REAL Hoosier said it was authentic although I didn t use Wondra instant flour wtf is that anyway It s funny how so many American recipes list ingredients that need a trademark next to them Just look at this baby I was defeated in the end and didn t finish it, but I put up a good fight That marinade actually truly kicks ass, I think buttermilk and garlic is the secret Also I didn t deep fry it, deep frying scares me Please note, I m reviewing here the UK version of Pulphead which has apparently been slightly amplified

  3. Adam Dalva Adam Dalva says:

    Uneven collection of essays, but when they re great, they re especially great I ve taught Feet in Smoke to my Rutgers class for a couple of years and it always makes an impact the contrast between Sullivan s story of his brother s near death experience and RESCUE 911 s rendition is an argument for creative writing American Grotesque is an uncanny reading experience in 2019, about the tea party in 2010 And Peyton s Place is a great story Sulli Uneven collection of essays, but when they re great, they re especially great I ve taught Feet in Smoke to my Rutgers class for a couple of years and it always makes an impact the contrast between Sullivan s story of his brother s near death experience and RESCUE 911 s rendition is an argument for creative writing American Grotesque is an uncanny reading experience in 2019, about the tea party in 2010 And Peyton s Place is a great story Sullivan s home was also the set

  4. Mike Puma Mike Puma says:

    John Jeremiah Sullivan is a free lance writer whose work has appeared in GQ, The Paris Review and Harper s Magazine. Pulphead gathers a diverse assortment of essays on various topics each told with a generous consideration of the personalities involved, nothing harsh or mean spirited Sullivan has gentle, easy going flow as if listening to a friend Good stuff Entries preceded by a might be of interest to those musically inclined or with an interest in music. Upon this Rock A fond recollecti John Jeremiah Sullivan is a free lance writer whose work has appeared in GQ, The Paris Review and Harper s Magazine. Pulphead gathers a diverse assortment of essays on various topics each told with a generous consideration of the personalities involved, nothing harsh or mean spirited Sullivan has gentle, easy going flow as if listening to a friend Good stuff Entries preceded by a might be of interest to those musically inclined or with an interest in music. Upon this Rock A fond recollection of an apostate Boy Howdy I can relate assigned to covering and writing about a christian rock festival Generous, non aggressive, critical, nostalgic, superb No harsh Hitchens, Dawson, or Harris here An excellent consideration of how these people encapsulate themselves in what Bill Maher refers to as life in a bubble Feet in Smoke An account of the author s brother s near death, post death, and gradual return to life experience told with humor and tremendous love very moving in a non maudlin sort of way, which is not to say, you re not a dick if you don t tear up a little.Mr Lytle An Essay Andrew Lytle was a friend and literary peer of Robert Penn Warren and Allen Tate as editor of Sewanee Review, he promoted the works of Flannery O Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Elizabeth Bishop, et al This essay chronicles a year in the author s life spent attending to the needs and whims of the celebrated last confederate told with great compassion, forgiveness, and respect Bravo At a Shelter After Katrina First hand accounts of acts of ingenuity and fellowship precede a premonition of the end of civilization.Getting Down to What Is Really Real The author describes a night out with former Real World personalities in their Real Life perpetuations of Reality TV fame where millions of other Real people wondered if the show was Really Real or Really scritpted Real people Really. Michael No matter what you think or thought of Michael Jackson, this brief essay will likely lead one to agenerous interpretation of the guy s life and work Generous I keep using that word , thoughtful, and well worth the short time it takes to read. The Final Comeback of Axl Rose Regardless of what you think of Axl Rose, or even if you think of AR, this brief essay chronicling the author s time spent researching the singer, getting to know his friends, watching concerts from the sides of the stage, will likely leave you thinking a littlefavorably of the Indiana boy the author feels akin to Personally, I still have a little trouble seeing what was and now is and thinking AR has become some bizarre mash up physically of Mickey Rourke and Bo Derek.American Grotesque After firmly establishing the First American Revolution as that which actually occurred in Bermuda among the passengers of the shipwrecked Sea Venture over socialism, you know the one immortalized by Shakespeare in The Tempest, the author goes on to describe attendance at a Tea Bagger 9 12 rally, the Right leaning perspectives of his insurance industry dependent family, and a death in Eastern Kentucky which, while questionable, was ruled a suicide by local authorities Oh, and he situates the health care debate within the perspective of at least one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who enabled the building of Philadelphia Hospital, in part, by tricking the assembly into matching funds for its construction Good stuff, BF.La hwi ne ski Career of an Eccentric Naturalist Biographical essay on the life of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, a French German naturalist, philosopher, geologist, poet, historian, and loon The author s family once boarded Rafinesque, and he presents his American experience with humor and care Rafinesque got pissy when Jefferson didn t include him in the Lewis Clark expedition, went back to Europe, and missed an opportunity to participate in the Red River expedition On his return, he spent years in the wild befriending Audobon and leaving his own largely overlooked mark on American natural history.Unnamed Caves The author describes his adventures in the named and unnamed caves of Kentucky and Tennessee, the archeologists who informed his expeditions, and the looters of artifacts from the caves, some better motivated than others, who ve secreted away amazing parts of American pre history. Unknown Bards Describes the author s experience researching Country Blues performers, lyrics, and recordings while introducing a bevy of blues artists they can t be called anything else predating Robert Johnson even fin de si cle greats largely forgotten by history An interesting assortment of characters BravoLast Wailer The author recommends listening to this while reading the essay so do I During a trip to Jamaica, the author has several interviews with Bunny Wailer, the last of the Wailers, in which he learns about Bob Marley s early life, Jamaican political history and garrisonism, Rastafarianism, pisses Bunny off, and cops what must have been one hell of a buzz with his driver.Violence of the Lambs A chilling consideration the increased number of animal attacks, the increased number of formerly non violent animals attacking, animals using weapons against humans, increased rate of genetic change in short periods of time, and phenotypic plasticity This one will give you pause.Peyton s Place Presents the author s experience of living in a celebrity house its brief appearance in David Lynch s Blue Velvet and its frequent appearance as the home of Peyton Sawyer in One Tree Hill The funny thing about this collection, or a funny thing about this collection, is that, once finished, readers get a sense of knowing the author and knowing him fairly well like a fictional character in a novel you ve really liked, only in this case, knowing the guy s out there doing what he does and doing it very well.

  5. Alan Alan says:

    one for the plane going over to the States I thought I d better read something American, and this has been on my to read list for two years and finally came in at the library.One measure of a non fiction book could be what it makes you go and do After or during this one I was looking up Native American cave paintings in Tennessee, downloading Joe Higgs Life of Contradiction, listening to Billie Jean and contemplating Disney s attempts at whitewashed utopia The book is full of fascinating e one for the plane going over to the States I thought I d better read something American, and this has been on my to read list for two years and finally came in at the library.One measure of a non fiction book could be what it makes you go and do After or during this one I was looking up Native American cave paintings in Tennessee, downloading Joe Higgs Life of Contradiction, listening to Billie Jean and contemplating Disney s attempts at whitewashed utopia The book is full of fascinating essays , ranging from the writer s teenage internship with Mr Lytle, the 92 year old survivor of the 30s Southern Agrarian literary movement which included Robert Penn warren and Allen Tate there was a homo erotic element to it Lytle says Tate propositioned him once,but I turned him down I didn t like his smell he had the stale scent of a man who didn t take any exerciseto a beautiful and sympathetic essay on Michael Jackson It was the perfect book to read while in America, written with style, skill, knowledge, generosity and enthusiasm The essay on the cave paintings was breathtakingly good, you felt his awe as he entered the caves to see some that were 8,000 years old Similarly his essay on old blues singers Unknown Bards in which he proudly deciphers a word on an old recording I d contributed a speck of knowledge, a little ant s mouthful of knowledge and delights in hearing how to unwarp a record place between two pieces of glass in gentle sunlight In another he smokes dope with Bunny Wailer, the last member of Bob Marley s group, and hallucinates Strange things were happening to Bunny s face as he spoke Different races were passing through it, through the cast of his features black, white, Asian, Indian, the whole transnational slosh that produced the West Indies He loves reality TV and follows a star Miz a guy who s given me so much joy over the years on his nightclub circuit You the reader go with the flow as he signs breasts and dances grinds with fans He is surprised at how much he enjoys a Christian rock festival OK not so much the bands as a bunch of guys he stays with The book even made me momentarily sympathise with the Tea Baggers American Grotesque , that s how good it was However there were two niggles one was the editor s note at the end of the piece on the increase in animals attacking humans The Violence of the Lambs Big parts of this piece I made up I didn t want to say that, but the editors are making me, because of certain scandals. I made up Marc Livengood a major character in the essay I made up the trip to Nairobi. Then there was the bit where Bunny Wailer distances himself from the author Both made me wonder about overall veracity I read all except the one on Axl Rose not for long I was in Washington and saw a march by the American Spring go by complaining about Obama s healthcare programme There were about 30 of them, doing the military style chanting, as we sat in the Hirshhorn Sculpture garden Earlier I had been approached by several beggars in the Chinatown area as I waited for my daughter, three of them said they couldn t afford their medications One, a former policeman, showed me the scars from his surgeries for the bone disease he had Another, clearly mentally ill, cried and grasped my daughter s arm and said she wanted to be normal again she didn t have the 8 dollars needed for her medication OK, they might be scamming me, an obvious tourist But just before I came to America I watched Breaking Bad a teacher can t afford his healthcare and turns to drug production to finance it, and then later a policeman is in the same situation A teacher and a policeman Yes, it s fiction, but surely the point is made only the comparatively rich can afford specialist healthcare Thank God for the NHS

  6. Elaine Elaine says:

    Let s get one thing out of the way John Jeremiah Sullivan can write Really well About almost anything So, already, that makes this compilation of long form essays worth exploring But then there s the way that for someone of our generation , he captures the zeitgeist of our youth so well, especially the guilty pleasures There are a lot of moments where I said wow I was at that Axl Rose show at Hammerstein Ballroom that night he made his come back wow, I loved The Real World, and Mike Let s get one thing out of the way John Jeremiah Sullivan can write Really well About almost anything So, already, that makes this compilation of long form essays worth exploring But then there s the way that for someone of our generation , he captures the zeitgeist of our youth so well, especially the guilty pleasures There are a lot of moments where I said wow I was at that Axl Rose show at Hammerstein Ballroom that night he made his come back wow, I loved The Real World, and Mike Miz and Cheryl and The Challenge and also, wow we all loved Michael Jackson, even when we didn t So, yes, he s a good pop culture journalist probably among the best writing today But, unlike many Goodreads reviewers, those were not the essays that captivated me the most I was most fascinated by the essays that featured Sullivan the Southern boy, very localized in a part of the mid Southeast, and very focused on Southern history and culture that is always already JUST beyond our grasp This deep sense of place, history, and the ephemerality of reality, of knowledge, is on its best display in two seemingly paired masterworks and I know I m in the minority here , Unnamed Caves and Unknown Bards Unknown Caves introduces us me, at least to an entire world of cave art in the Southeastern US ranging in age from 8,000 no typos to 800 years old, in other words, pre Columbian elaborate artifacts of an intensely intricate and incredibly ancient succession of cultures that will always be pretty mysterious because they had no written language And then he introduces you to the rednecks who loot these sites, continuing what has been going on since the Spanish, so that some guy in the backwoods has all these incredibly unique artifacts of a culture you ve never even heard of Seriously, you know this s it happened in Greece, and China, and Mexico, but it s happening in your own backyard History happened here, and we aren t protecting it This is one of those essays that has you hanging on every word, wanting to learneverything about the world he s exposing you to, about the knowledge that you are only glimpsing through his eyes The same for Unknown Bards, about the obscure early roots of blues, about the attempts to understand , to follow, to preserve some 100 year old recordings that glimpse at a culture almost as impossible to reach as the Woodlands cave artists of the Unknown Cave So too, Mr Lytle, where Sullivan serves a very particular internship at the feet of a 92 year old Southern writer who knew Penn Warren and had one foot in the Confederacy In other words, for me, Sullivan is at his best where he s getting very granular about something I had no idea I wanted to know about I even loved the essay about the barmy genius French Sicilian polymath naturalist of the 19th century, which no one else on GR seemed to like Partly, that s because, as with pop culture, he shares some of my obsessions the ephemerality and relativity of time and history He s very keen on what we can never know, and how closely we missed knowing it It s a very compelling perspective, and provokes a lot of thought, especially in this age where Google and Wikipedia can delude you into thinking that everything is known or knowable Sullivan will remind you that, even though we might only be a handful of generations from the Civil War on the one hand, on the other, we will never know what a blues singer a scant century ago of whom perhaps a single copy of her song survives meant by one slurred word At one point, in one of his many meditations on time, Sullivan notes that you can be certain that there are a few big bloopers in currency right now, ideas that in a few hundred years will seem obviously, demonstrably, scientifically wrong and that we can have no idea what those are It s the way he looks at things, coupled with a thirst for knowledge, and I love it Love it.So why not a 5 Because there are a few duds in here, and a few off moments I found American Grotesque, where he tries to get in the heads of the Tea Party, flat, and there were other off moments as well But this was awfully close to a 5

  7. Patrick Brown Patrick Brown says:

    This book, without going overboard, exploded my brain In one of my progress updates, I said it was like an album where every song is perfect and the sequencing is exactly right And that s still how I feel about it The scope of this collection kept telescoping out as I was reading it At first, it seemed like a book about the American South, and the role it plays in both the author s life and that of America today, but as I read on, it expanded It was about America, really where it s at now This book, without going overboard, exploded my brain In one of my progress updates, I said it was like an album where every song is perfect and the sequencing is exactly right And that s still how I feel about it The scope of this collection kept telescoping out as I was reading it At first, it seemed like a book about the American South, and the role it plays in both the author s life and that of America today, but as I read on, it expanded It was about America, really where it s at now and where it had been and a little bit of where it might be headed Every essay in the book is a marvel on its own While I wasn t as fascinated by the Rafinesque piece in the middle of the book If this were an album, that piece would be the 20 minute long epic that anchors it , but I admired the style My favorite essays were Feet in Smoke, about Sullivan s brother after a near death experience, and Getting Down to What s Really Real, about the surreal ha life of Real World alumni who are paid to go clubbing and partying I once wrote an essay of my own about reality TV, and I was absolutely humbled by Sullivan s take on it Though mine is still pretty funny, I think And I didn t interview anyone for it, so, you know If you haven t read Blood Horses Notes of a Sportswriter s Son, this is a great introduction to an immensely talented author, one with incredible range If you have read Blood Horses, then there s no introduction needed You already know what a badass Sullivan is

  8. David David says:

    This winter I ve been reading a lot of nonfiction collections, hitting a lot of big names along the way Updike, Hitchens, Schama, Didion John Jeremiah Sullivan was someone I had never heard of until I stumbled across this collection in the bookstore, but I m happy to report that his writing has an idiosyncratic charm that puts him right up there with the big guys.As with any collection of essays, there are a few duds in this collection Sullivan s pieces on Axl Rose and on Michael Jackson s This winter I ve been reading a lot of nonfiction collections, hitting a lot of big names along the way Updike, Hitchens, Schama, Didion John Jeremiah Sullivan was someone I had never heard of until I stumbled across this collection in the bookstore, but I m happy to report that his writing has an idiosyncratic charm that puts him right up there with the big guys.As with any collection of essays, there are a few duds in this collection Sullivan s pieces on Axl Rose and on Michael Jackson seemed meandering, a little self indulgent, with no obvious point But these are the exceptions They arethan offset by the essays Upon This Rock , Lahwineski Career of an Eccentric Naturalist , Mr Lytle , in each of which Sullivan takes a topic about which I had no prior knowledge or interest and writes about it in a way that is spellbinding Besides a fluid, unassuming writing style, Sullivan s gift is to write about obscure topics in a way that engages the reader s interest and sympathy.Reading the jacket cover for Pulphead , I see comparisons to the essays of David Foster Wallace This seems partially correct to me Sullivan has the same ability to take the most unlikely subject and make it fascinating to the reader, and like DFW, he writes with great empathy and without condescension He does not, however, display the self consciousness that plagued DFW, nor does his writing suffer from the kind of stylistic tic that can result when an author worries too much about the impression he may be making He does not match Foster Wallace s brilliance, but he is definitely smart and compassionate enough to merit your attention John Jeremiah Sullivan is an author worth looking out for This is an excellent collection

  9. Oriana Oriana says:

    Spied twice in one week on CoverSpy, called a badass by an FSG staffer, and listed on Flavorpill s 25 Greatest Essay Collections of All Time Why haven t I read this already Well, because I forgot all about it I wrote the above in 2012, when the book came out, and since I didn t rush out to buy it right away, it vanished entirely from my brain So much so that when I was at a friend s house scanning her shelves for something to read on a flight and she suggested this one, I said, What, isn t Spied twice in one week on CoverSpy, called a badass by an FSG staffer, and listed on Flavorpill s 25 Greatest Essay Collections of All Time Why haven t I read this already Well, because I forgot all about it I wrote the above in 2012, when the book came out, and since I didn t rush out to buy it right away, it vanished entirely from my brain So much so that when I was at a friend s house scanning her shelves for something to read on a flight and she suggested this one, I said, What, isn t that a memoir about a soldier at war No you dope, she said gently That s Jarhead I mean DUH Anway I am certainly very late to the party in saying that John Jeremiah is a stellar writer, but oh la he surely is sharp and piercing and incisive and shivery, whether his sights are sets on an obscure to the point of veritable nonexistence blues caterwauler, his older brother s near death experience, or the history of a Native American death cult as told through cave drawings And yet this book, not even 10 years old, already feels like a sweet lovely relic of ainnocent but less enlightened time, when it was a given that everyone used AOL, when the word trannie was tossed about willy nilly, when bitter old closeted white Southern literary titans took in rugged young white Southern literary mentees to groom and possibly prey upon sexually, when a writer could spend weeks or months and a very healthy travel stipend on just one longform magazine article that probably wouldn t even be the cover story.I wonder what John Jeremiah is writing now, and for whom, and whether he is still talking so casually about being groped by his old gay mentor like a chambermaid, with all the sexism and cultural blindness and obliviousness to power that a metaphor like that suggests I hope he s a littleenlightened now, has been able to adjust with the times, because he s a crushingly stunning tale teller He can describe a YouTube clip of Michael Jackson or a live performance by Axl Rose so thoroughly and with such attendant emotional depth that you wouldn t dream of hunting it down to watch because you ve pretty much already seen it He explains a geological plateau and a sharecropper s dancehall and the streets of Trench Town with such precision that you d never think to Google, because you already know it all, basically as if you d experienced it yourself I loved this so much, is what I m saying This is a great moment for essays and these essays are great for really any moment Now to find and figure out how to gently stalk John Jeremiah so I can keep reading whatever bursts forth next from his splendid imagination

  10. Todd Todd says:

    I wanted to give this guy five stars, but the two stories in the middle were snoozers and a few of the endings were rushed and, accordingly, awful Of the latter, the ending to the essay about Axl Rose such a good essay was so disappointingly bad that I almost didn t like the essay What I like most about this guy is that he isn t a sarcastic, cynical prick After having just read a few stories by George Saunders, I appreciate this fact and Sullivan evenThree things From the first essay I wanted to give this guy five stars, but the two stories in the middle were snoozers and a few of the endings were rushed and, accordingly, awful Of the latter, the ending to the essay about Axl Rose such a good essay was so disappointingly bad that I almost didn t like the essay What I like most about this guy is that he isn t a sarcastic, cynical prick After having just read a few stories by George Saunders, I appreciate this fact and Sullivan evenThree things From the first essay, about Creation I ve been to a lot of huge public events in this country during the past five years, writing about sports or whatever, and one thing they all had in common was this weird implicit enmity that American males, in particular, seem to carry around with them much of the time Call it a laughable generalization, fine, but spend enough late afternoons in stadium concourses, you feel it, something darker than machismo Something a little wounded, and a little sneering, and just plain ready for bad things to happen 16 17 In Manhattan and Brooklyn, I felt this at nearly every bar In Michigan, I can sometimes feel it at the supermarkets It s bad and it s spreading, and Sullivan was right on the money about it being a wounded, dark feeling From the essay Lytle An Essay Confusion to the enemy 63.This has nothing to do with Sullivan because it was Lytle s toast, but what a perfect toast it is From The Final Comeback of Axl Rose What Axl does is lovely, I m sorry If I could, I would be doing that as I walk to the store 132.Yes A great writer fun to read makes the bizarre, mundane, and already written about into fresh and exciting stories

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