Monday, February 13, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Pulphead: Essays

The first time the name John Jeremiah Sullivan pierced my consciousness was after reading a piece he'd written in GQ* about the sharp rise in attacks on humans by animals. It was called "Violence of the Lambs" and it was well-written and utterly fascinating and included a plot twist just near the end that helped to further cement John Jeremiah Sullivan's name in my brain, both because the piece was ingenious and because his name was later featured in the letters written by readers, some angry, some appreciative, in response to the piece.

That piece is included near the end of the essay collection Pulphead. On the way there, we travel with Sullivan to a Christian rock festival, we meet a literary legend with whom he had a troubled (and troubling) relationship, we hear his thoughts on Michael Jackson and Axl Rose.

Though the topics in these essays are all over the (geographical, philosophical and cultural) map, the one common thread is Sullivan's unbridled intellectual curiosity. He approaches topics as diverse as prehistoric cave art in Tennessee and an interview with former The Real World castmate turned professional wrestler, "The Miz," with equal enthusiasm.

The enthusiasm is contagious and you may just find yourself (as I did) reading intently about the 19th century fringe naturalist/pathological liar/borderline lunatic Constantine Rafinesque, who had an unexpected (and slight) connection with Sullivan's own distant past. I had never heard of Rafinesque, and going into the essay, would've professed little to no interest in botany and natural history of the 1800s, but once I'd begun the essay, I was irritated by every interruption from the outside world until I'd finished the piece.

How one man could be responsible for that essay and an equally un-put-down-able piece on renting out his home as a set for the teen drama One Tree Hill is one of the universe's unsolvable mysteries as far as I'm concerned, but I look forward to more opportunities to try to figure it out.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Engaging.

*Yes, yes, it's a men's magazine, with occasionally annoying hints of chauvinism and even whiffs of what some might interpret as misogyny. But, it's also full of intelligence and wit that are sorely lacking in many women's magazines.


  1. You're the second person to mention "Violence of the Lambs" to me in the recent past...must check it out!

    1. If you get a chance to read it let me know. Both the subject matter and his handling of it really stuck with me. The picture of the adorable little lamb with blood around its mouth was a little disturbing--so that stuck with me, too.

  2. Removed the other comment b/c I made too many typos! I can't see what I typed until it is printed in the larger font on the blog. Yet another plus to being over 50. Let's try again -

    Damn! I have now added yet ANOTHER book to my "will read as soon as I get a life" list -- the link above was a dead end (just to tell you) but I Amazoned it - I DO have a love/hate relationship with made up verbs....they can be so fun sometimes - and read the excerpt. I am a big fan of essays - this collection looks , yes, engaging. Thanks for the review - It's in my shopping cart for when I have either time or money. :)
    Happy VD

    1. JT, I did the same thing over at TangledLou's yesterday. I even did it twice because I accidentally deleted the FIXED version instead of the unfixed one. ;)

      I fixed the link--thanks for letting me know. The book really was amazing. I'm a big fan of a well-written essay as well. I love all kinds of writing, but if I were pressed to pick a favorite form, that one would be it.

      (PS--Love "Happy VD," since I'm of the generation before the more politically correct (and anatomically accurate) "sexually transmitted diseases" came into popularity and VD was something we talked about in health class. ;) When I worked at the flower shop, "VD" was our order shorthand for Valentine's Day and we got quite a chuckle out of it every year.)