Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Pulphead: Essays 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0374532901
ISBN-10: 0374532907
Why is ISBN important?
ISBN
This bar-code number lets you verify that you're getting exactly the right version or edition of a book. The 13-digit and 10-digit formats both work.
Scan an ISBN with your phone
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Buy used On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
$8.00 On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
Buy new On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
$11.29 On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
More Buying Choices
57 New from $4.97 75 Used from $2.93 1 Collectible from $8.12
Free Two-Day Shipping for College Students with Prime Student Free%20Two-Day%20Shipping%20for%20College%20Students%20with%20Amazon%20Student


The Underground Railroad
The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more
$11.29 FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books. In Stock. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Frequently Bought Together

  • Pulphead: Essays
  • +
  • The White Album: Essays (FSG Classics)
Total price: $20.92
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the  Month, November 2011: What a fresh and daring voice. John Jeremiah Sullivan is a dynamic and gutsy writer, a cross between Flannery O'Connor and a decaffeinated Tom Wolfe, with just the right dash of Hunter S. Thompson. In fourteen essays ranging from an Axl Rose profile to an RV trek to a Christian rock festival to the touching story of his brother's near-death electrocution, Sullivan writes funny, beautiful, and very real sentences. The sum of these stories portrays a real America, including the vast land between the coasts. Staying just this side of cynical, Sullivan displays respect for his subjects, no matter how freakish they may seem (see Axl Rose). Put another way: if Tom Waits wrote essays, they might sound like Pulphead. --Neal Thompson

Exclusive Amazon.com Interview:

(c) by Harry TaylorThough his stories have appeared for a decade in Harper's, GQ, and other magazines, John Jeremiah Sullivan wasn’t a recognizable name until Pulphead started landing on year-end best-books lists, including Time, the New York Times, and Amazon's Best Books of 2011. The New Yorker’s James Wood compares him to Raymond Carver - "with hints of Emerson and Thoreau." Elsewhere, Sullivan has been called the new Tom Wolfe, David Foster Wallace, or Hunter S. Thompson, or some combination of all three.

I prefer to think of him more as the Tom Waits of long-form journalism.

Description: http://static.typepad.com/.shared:v20111215.01-0-gf45a3bb:typepad:en_us/js/tinymce/plugins/pagebreak/img/trans.gifSullivan’s sportswriter father was an early and lasting influence. "The stuff he wrote was so weird, when I go back and look at it. It would almost have to be classified as creative non-fiction," Sullivan told me.

I asked Sullivan if his father encouraged him to become a writer.

"He did the smartest and best thing he could have done for me, which was to take a very coolly distant but encouraging attitude,” he said. “I think he could tell early on that it's what I was going to do, that I wasn't really suited for much else.

After college and a brief “lost period” in Ireland, Sullivan got an internship at The Oxford American magazine and spent a month in Mississippi, living in a brown-carpeted room at the Ole Miss hotel, with hookers conducting their business nearby.

One night, Sullivan told his editor, Marc Smirnoff, about his musician brother’s near-death electrocution from a microphone. Smirnoff suggested he write a story about it, giving Sullivan his first professional byline.

"It was just one of those things where somebody opens the door and steps aside and says, 'Don't f**k it up'," Sullivan said. "And that piece made a lot of cool things happen for me."

Cool things like bylines in Harper's, The Paris Review, and The New York Times Magazine.

Over the next decade he honed his reporting skills, his unique voice (personal not cynical, thoughtful not intellectual), and a particular interest in outliers. I asked: do you look for oddballs, or do they find you? "It probably betrays a weakness for grotesques," he said. "And grotesques give you little angles of insight into human nature. There are things they can't help exposing.

"Sometimes I take pleasure in writing about people who make it hard for you to see their basic humanity. It gives me a very clear task as a writer to insist on it."

Pulphead is filled with hunks of other people’s sometimes misshapen humanity.

"The things that can happen to people... it just blows your mind."

Four more questions for Sullivan:

  • Where do you work? "I used to be one of those people who could write anywhere but for the first time I've become real attached to this corner office in our house that’s become sort of a cocoon. I keep it real disgusting so nobody will ever want to come in here. My daughter will show it to friends, almost like you'd show somebody the dungeon."
  • Who are you reading? "It’s more about staying in constant contact with writing, always being into some writer. That keeps me inspired and it keeps me feeling like, when I sit down to write, it's part of a preexisting and ongoing conversation. It's not the scary void that people talk about of the white page. I do everything I can to cancel out that feeling."
  • You’re a fan of bourbon – can you write drunk? - "Drinking and smoking for me are useful for getting over humps. For cracking things open. But if I try to do it in a sustained way, it gets kind of sloppy and pudding-headed. So I have to introduce it into the process at the right moments … (Bourbon) gives you a little bit of that what-the-f**k feeling."
  • Do you think of yourself as a southern writer? "I'm not an authentic southerner by anyone's definition, and I don't self-identify as a southern writer … I'm interested in regionalism. The fact that I sort of grew up back and forth between the Midwest and the South, it sensitized me to the differences early on … Mainly I’m interested in the psycho-geography of regionalism, and how it gives shape to people's personalities.”

Review

“Sullivan seems able to do almost anything, to work in any register, and not just within a single piece but often in the span of a single paragraph…Pulphead is the best, and most important, collection of magazine writing since Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again…Sullivan's writing is a bizarrely coherent, novel, and generous pastiche of the biblical, the demotic, the regionally gusty and the erudite.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“[Pulphead is] a big and sustaining pile of--as I've heard it put about certain people's fried chicken--crunchy goodness . . . 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 . . . The book has its grotesques, for sure. But they are genuine and appear here in a way that put me in mind of one of Flannery O'Connor's indelible utterances. ‘Whenever I'm asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks,' O'Connor said, 'I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.'” ―The New York Times

“Sullivan's essays have won two National Magazine Awards, and here his omnivorous intellect analyzes Michael Jackson, Christian rock, post-Katrina New Orleans, Axl Rose and the obscure 19th century naturalist Constantine Rafinesque. His compulsive honesty and wildly intelligent prose recall the work of American masters of New Journalism like Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe.” ―Time

“Sullivan's essays stay with you, like good short stories--and like accomplished short fiction, they often will, over time, reveal a fuller meaning . . . Whether he ponders the legacy of a long-dead French scientist or the unlikely cultural trajectory of Christian rock, Sullivan imbues his narrative subjects with a broader urgency reminiscent of other great practitioners of the essay-profile, such as New Yorker writers Joseph Mitchell and A. J. Liebling or Gay Talese during his '60s Esquire heyday . . . [Pulphead] reinforces [Sullivan's] standing as among the best of his generation's essayists.” ―Bookforum

“[The essays in Pulphead are] among the liveliest magazine features written by anyone in the past 10 years . . . What they have in common, though, whether low or high of brow, is their author's essential curiosity about the world, his eye for the perfect detail, and his great good humor in revealing both his subjects' and his own foibles . . . a collection that shows why Sullivan might be the best magazine writer around.” ―NPR

“One ascendant talent who deserves to be widely read and encouraged is John Jeremiah Sullivan . . . Pulphead is one of the most involving collections of essays to appear in many a year.” ―Larry McMurtry, Harper's Magazine

“Each beautifully crafted essay in John Jeremiah Sullivan's collection Pulphead is a self-contained world…Sullivan's masterful essays invite an honest confrontation with reality, especially when considered in light of one another….Pulphead compels its readers to consider each as an equal sum in the bizarre arithmetic of American identity . . . [Sullivan is] as red-hot a writer as they come.” ―BookPage

“The age-old strangeness of American pop culture gets dissected with hilarious and revelatory precision…Sullivan writes an extraordinary prose that's stuffed with off-beat insight gleaned from rapt, appalled observations and suffused with a hang-dog charm. The result is an arresting take on the American imagination.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Month
Best of the Month
Amazon's editors selected this title as a Best Book of the Month. See our current Editors' Picks.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 369 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Originals; 1 edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374532907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374532901
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For years, I've been reading John Jeremiah Sullivan's essays in GQ, the Paris Review, and other publications with pleasure and admiration. Now his pieces have been collected in one handy paperback, and re-reading them reminds me that he's simply one of the most wonderful writers working today, in any genre. His voice is funny and informed, but also warm and personal and empathetic. He sees his subjects with great compassion; one of the great surprises of his essays is the way that he goes deep below the surface when writing about pop phenomenon (such as Michael Jackson or the cast of The Real World) that the rest of us might be quick to dismiss. Sullivan is also a master of the short-form memoir. His essay "Mr. Lytle" is a heartbreaking portrait of a literary mentor that is also about intergenerational friendship, sexuality, the South, and so many other things. "Pulphead" is a delight.
Comment 56 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
A writer of such ghastly intelligence, my own brain feels almost palsied by comparison. I would mind, but anyone who can produce such a fierce, incisive wit while managing not to take cheap pot-shots at One Tree Hill deserves those National Magazine Awards. I've used these essays in the classroom, to get friends, to remind myself what how good writing can be.
Comment 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In "Pulphead" John Jeremiah Sullivan has written the funniest book by Chuck Klosterman, the sunniest book by David Foster Wallace, and the literary follow-up to Bob Dylan's "The Basement Tapes." Does his sounding like other writers mean he has a less than unique voice of his own? Perhaps. But that is a byproduct of what Keats called "negative capability:" being more interested in the the subjects of one's essays than in oneself. There will be plenty of time for self-exploration in what I hope will be many other books. Right now, Sullivan values elegance over quirkiness, clarity over color. And each time he trains his Swarovzski-sniper-(in)sight at his targets, he shoots bullets of pure love, if anything reserving even more understanding and sympathy for the infamous. These essays are a demonstration of how the vinegar of genius when stirred into the milk of human kindness and aged in the dark cave of the soul yields an inexhaustible variety of tastes and textures. Each piece here surprises and one-ups its predecessor. And oh, the erudition. In these pages one reads that Auden said "all art results from humiliation" and also that elephants regularly rape rhinoceroses. Unless Sullivan is making this up. He might be: he is an ingenious, adroit, admitted liar. But even his lies reveal the truth. This book is a nexus where the soiled and tangled roots of American myth meet the unreality of our media culture with the contradictory braided reflectiveness of an Escher engraving. As a Southern epic-comic social critic, Sullivan has not yet scaled the heights of Twain or John Kennedy Toole, but has already far surpassed Tom Wolfe. Hurry up with that novel, but for God's sake, don't kill yourself over it. Even if you never equal this collection, it will be good enough.
Comment 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In "Unknown Bards", Sullivan's essay about American Blues music, we get this quote from Dean Blackwood of Revenant Records, "...I have always felt like there wasn't enough of a case being made for [blues musicians'] greatness. You've got to have their stuff together to understand the potency of their work." The same can be said about John Jeremiah Sullivan.

Until now, Sullivan's essays have entered the public sphere only piecemeal through periodicals like GQ, Harper's Magazine, and The Paris Review. With "Pulphead", we get the first compilation of Sullivan's essays, and only the second book of his ever published. What emerges from this collection, more so than if one were to read these essays on their own, is a uniquely talented American writer and voice.

Sullivan's prose is humble and emotional, while never self-centered or overbearing.

His prose is opposite that of a political pundit's, a sophist sportscaster, or "expert" social media consultant. Our society is quick to confuse wisdom with declarative opinions. From Sullivan, don't look for grandiose reformations of opinions into facts. Words like guarantee, definitely, undoubtedly are as foreign to Sullivan as pretentious qualifiers like, "My twenty years of successful leadership on the Hill..." Or, "I have been saying all along, and I will say it again, John Doe is the best athlete since..."

Sullivan deals in grey. In his essays, he even takes self-deprecating swipes at his own credibility as a writer: "I don't know. I had no pseudo-anthropological moxie left." Or, "Ordinarily, one is tense about interrogating strangers, worried about freezing or forgetting to ask what'll turn out to be the only important question.
Read more ›
Comment 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm age 72 and a life-long reader, have a couple of Masters degrees, and used to belong to MENSA. This is as wonderful a book as I have read in a long time, maybe forever. The depth of the intellect shown here, the command of vocabulary, the naturalness of the writing, and the amazing detail is all just stupendous. I never knew I'd be interested in some of the subjects of the essays, but to my amazement, I was. Don't miss this book.
Comment 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Pulphead: Essays
Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more about Amazon Giveaway
This item: Pulphead: Essays