Pulphead: Dispatches from the Other Side of America

John Jeremiah Sullivan

Pulphead: Dispatches from the Other Side of America

John Jeremiah Sullivan takes us on a funhouse hall-of-mirrors ride through the other side of America - to the Ozarks for a Christian rock festival; to Florida to meet the straggling refugees of MTV's Real World; 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. 4.8 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Pulphead: Dispatches from the Other Side of America

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Essays, Journals & Letters
Format Paperback
Pages 416
RRP
Date of Publication August 2012
ISBN 978-0099572350
Publisher Vintage
 

John Jeremiah Sullivan takes us on a funhouse hall-of-mirrors ride through the other side of America - to the Ozarks for a Christian rock festival; to Florida to meet the straggling refugees of MTV's Real World; 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.

Read an extract from the book | Guardian

Reviews

The New Yorker

James Wood

He seems to have in abundance the storyteller’s gifts: he is a fierce noticer, is undauntedly curious, is porous to gossip, and has a memory of childlike tenacity … Unlike Tom Wolfe or Joan Didion, who bring their famous styles along with them like well-set, just-done hair, Sullivan lets his subjects muss and alter his prose; he works like a novelist.

19/12/2011

Read Full Review


The Sunday Times

Ed Caesar

... by turns curious, waspish, sentimental, maudlin, faux-naif, warm-hearted and urbane ... The author he most reminds me of is Mark Twain ... Pulphead shares Twain’s apparent insouciance. Reading it, you imagine you are whiling away an idle hour. And then you are stopped dead, thinking about a man eating alone at a truck stop in Monteagle, Tennessee, at two in the morning.

05/08/2012

Read Full Review


The Observer

Edward Docx

Wonderfully engaging, lucid, intelligent, entertaining, interesting and amusing … So often the clarity of a writer's voice comes at the expense of a subtlety in tone. Not here. The two best pieces of the ensemble — Getting Down to What is Really Real and Upon This Rock — are written with such a well-judged balance of close-up love and objective report that they subverted my prejudices entirely and left me admiring Sullivan's way of admiring. I went into these chapters belligerently not giving a toss about reality TV and believing the Christian rock music scene to be the single most colossally redundant human phenomenon to date; I came out a changed reader. Sullivan had guided me through these alien worlds in a way that revealed to me their interesting geometries and their raisons d'être. What more can the writer do?

12/08/2012

Read Full Review


The Independent

Archie Bland

Wonderful … the prose here is impeccable. Sullivan is not a pyrotechnic stylist like his predecessor as golden boy of American essays, David Foster Wallace. Instead, although his voice is unmistakable — affable, sincere, stepping out of the moment to address the reader — Sullivan is always working to fit it to his subject, so that a piece written upon the death of Michael Jackson has, quite properly, a very different texture to one about Kentucky cave paintings.

11/08/2012

Read Full Review


The Guardian

Sam Leith

Frequently exhilarating … What holds all this stuff together is the author's great curiosity (these pieces are written casually but researched to the nth degree), his warmth of tone and the sense under it of a sinuous intelligence. It's full of good jokes, tiny sharp bits of description, nuggets of gossip.

28/07/2012

Read Full Review


Times Literary Supplement

Ben Hamilton

The variety is impressive … Of the ageing author Andrew Lytle, — the subject of one of the best pieces in the book — Sullivan writes: "His form sagged so exaggeratedly into the sofa, it was as if thieves had crept through and stolen his bones and left him there". This modulation of language, from the stately to the slangy, has led to comparisons with the New Journalism of the 1960s and 70s, but Sullivan is less image-conscious than Tom Wolfe or Hunter S. Thompson, and more revealing.

10/08/2012

Read Full Review


The New York Times

Dwight Garner

What’s impressive about Pulphead is the way these disparate essays cohere into a memoirlike whole. The putty that binds them together is Mr. Sullivan’s steady and unhurried voice. Reading him, I felt the way Mr. Sullivan does while listening to a Bunny Wailer song called “Let Him Go.” That is, I felt “like a puck on an air-hockey table that’s been switched on.” Like well-made songs, his essays don’t just have strong verses and choruses but bridges, too, unexpected bits that make subtle harmonic connections.

27/10/2011

Read Full Review


The New York Times

Gideon Lewis-Kraus

... the best, and most important, collection of magazine writing since [David Foster] Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. But where so much of Wallace turns on a distinction between instinctive action and self­conscious paralysis, Sullivan doesn’t find this conflict worth worrying about ... Where Wallace’s style was so pugnaciously sui generis, Sullivan’s writing is a bizarrely coherent, novel, and generous pastiche of the biblical, the demotic, the regionally gusty and the erudite.

28/10/2011

Read Full Review


©2013 The Omnivore