Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan

There are not many journalists of whom I would say that a bunch of their old magazine articles thrown together in a book is an unmissable event, but I do say it of John Jeremiah Sullivan. I used to scour the Web in search of scraps of Sullivan's prose: it's so intelligent, so funny and so personal that it seems to cut right to the center of our bloated, dangerously swollen culture, lancing it and letting the sugary, overripe juice run out. There's no real coherence to the collection, since it just follows Sullivan's interests, and he's apparently interested in everything (and capable of making anything interesting). He walks in the footsteps of Axl Rose, chases down the last of Bob Marley's Wailers, hits a bar with a reality-show star and lets his house be used as a TV set. With David Foster Wallace and Hunter S. Thompson dead, and Tom Wolfe largely retired, there aren't many writers around with the guts and brains to stand up to our culture and not let it bully them with its bullshit. Sullivan is one of them.