Pulphead

Pulphead

Essays

Book - 2011
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Named A Best Book of 2011 by the New York Times , Time Magazine, the Boston Globe and Entertainment Weekly

A sharp-eyed, uniquely humane tour of America's cultural landscape--from high to low to lower than low--by the award-winning young star of the literary nonfiction world.

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.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780374532901
Branch Call Number: 080 SUL
Characteristics: 369 pages ; 19 cm

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b
britprincess1ajax
Nov 08, 2015

John Jeremiah Sullivan's essays were not meant to capture the American experience. They were written and published previously for various publications, then assembled and edited into this book, largely considered one of the few twenty-first century contemporary classics. And yet it flows so fluidly, like one big journey across the states. It picks up on the little clusters across that nation, giving each its fair shake. Sullivan comes from a fortunate place, a long line of wealth and class, which he recognizes openly, but instead of fastening that top button, he leans back and observes with such detail the landscape, acknowledging the harsh truths from which this stick-up-its-butt politically correct atmosphere shies away. He sees it all, too, wandering through the Kentucky hills in the nineteenth century and the Tennessee caves in the "Sahara of the Bozart", painting wildly everything, from the absorbing tales of Michael Jackson and Axl Rose to Sullivan's own experiences at a Tea Party rally and a Christian rock music festival. And, oh, what a wonderful way he weaves his words. Wherever Sullivan goes, you want to follow. You'll want to take a road trip with him, just to hear his take on the vista. I recommend PULPHEAD.

l
lukasevansherman
Oct 01, 2015

A mostly strong, somewhat eclectic, purposefully idiosyncratic collection of essays from John Jeremiah Sullivan. Sullivan covers a lot of ground, moving from obscure 19th century naturalists to a Christian rock concert to Axl Rose. He seems to want to have it both ways, writing more cerebral, high-brow essays (he's been compared to David Foster Wallace) on scientific subjects, but also overthought, Chuck Klosterman-ish pieces on pop culture like "The Real World" or Michael Jackson. He mostly succeeds, but I don't know if anyone can make a cast member of "The Real World" interesting. "Rock of Ages," which is the Christian rock concert one, and his Axl Rose essay are the highlights, even if he lets Rose off too easily. You might also like Charles D'Ambrosio's "Loitering."

m
Malinshe
Sep 05, 2012

Really enjoyed this book. There were only a few essays that didnt grab me as much, but on the whole they sucked me in!

a
annafaraday
Jul 16, 2012

Highly recommend this collection of essays.

Fascinating and hilarious and evocative and surprising.

austinmurphy Mar 12, 2012

I liked the first two essays, but when he started writing about Axl Rose and the cast of "The Real World", I yawned and moved on.

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britprincess1ajax
May 09, 2016

"I reminded myself that incessant potential catastrophe is the human condition, is in fact the price of possessing consciousness, and I determined to live with greater ease from now on, and not to let anyone scare me about the future, because the truth is, the worst thing that could ever happen to you is death, and that's going to happen despite all your worry and effort, so it's simply irrational not to say f**k it."

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