While the result, sullivan suggests, may be a redefinition of cultural forms, it can also lead to a misunderstanding of both. An expansive piece divided in two sections, its a brilliant mingling of criticism, first-person narrative and research-based reporting. Yet he shines best as an enthusiast for the all-but-forgotten blues songs of geeshie wiley and Elvie thomas: Not many ciphers have left as large and beguiling a presence as geeshie wileys. Three of the six songs Wiley and Elvie thomas recorded are among the greatest country-blues performances ever etched into shellac, and one of them, last Kind Words Blues, is an essential work of American art, sans qualifiers, a blues that isnt blues, that is something. In the latter part of Unknown Bards, sullivan picks apart Elijah Walds. Escaping the delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues and Marybeth Hamiltons, in search of the Blues, two blues histories that seek to deconstruct the legend of the delta bluesman. He contends that the fault of both books — indeed, of most blues scholarship — is the failure to recognize that some of the earliest blues performers saw their work as art before tastemakers deemed it so: we have again to go against our training.
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In this story, sullivan resurrects the tennessee author Andrew industry Nelson Lytle, then the last surviving member of the collective of writers and artists known as the southern Agrarians. Bear in mind that by the mid-nineties, when i knew him, sullivan says about once serving as Lytles great apprentice-cum-caretaker, the so-called southern Renascence in letters had mostly dwindled to a tired professional regionalism. One of the essays more extraordinary effects is the way it allows readers to lose track of whether theyre reading memoir or a short story — and whether that matters. Sullivan crafts a picture of Lytles complexities and, despite his faults, the lessons hidden within them: The manner in which I related to him was essentially anthropological. Taking offense, for instance, to his more or less daily outbursts of racism, chauvinism, anti-semitism, class snobbery, and what I can only call medieval nostalgia, seemed as absurd as debating these things with a caveman. Shut up and ask him what the cave art means. Sullivans obsession with questioning the souths enigmatic artifacts persists in Unnamed caves, an essay about Native american prehistoric cave art thats mostly being rediscovered in middle tennessee. Its a fascination that serves his sensibility well, as hes a first-rate observer of things that cant immediately, if ever, be deciphered. While dwelling in an undisclosed cavern with an archaeologist named Jan Simek, a thick-chest guy in his fifties — bushy dark hair mixed with iron gray, sportsmans shades, sullivan doesnt ascribe meaning to the weird paddle-handed creatures with long wavy arms, but rather illuminates the. It may have been shamanic. Likewise, in Unknown Bards, a refreshing exegesis on the threadbare subject of the blues, sullivan skillfully displays an awareness that he is writing at a time when the lines between high and mass art have broken down.
As Sullivan records in the work — which was the outgrowth of a 2002 essay he wrote for. Harpers — he was born in Kentucky and quickly uprooted to the midwest. But a devotion to the south remained: I had a yearning, very early on, to belong to lexington, and when my geographical history became too convoluted to afford an obvious hometown (born in louisville; childhood in southern Indiana; high school in Ohio; college in Tennessee. This identification with the south — its debased charms and moving contradictions — spills over into. In the essay. Lytle, sullivan writes, i was under the tragic spell of the south, which either youve felt or you havent. In my case it was acute margaret because, having grown up in Indiana with a yankee father, a child exile from Kentucky roots of which I was overly proud, Id long been aware of a faint nowhereness to my life.
Nevertheless it is what she did. I have it on tape. She blew a rams horn, quite capably, twice. A yearly rite, perhaps, to announce her arrival at Creation. As the essay unfolds, sullivan becomes fully immersed in the born-again crowd, and the remembered past takes him in the opposite direction, spawning a recollection of his own high school Jesus phase.' The admission cuts sharply against the characteristically derisive voice of the new journalism. And it severs even deeper when the memory — compounded by a festival goer who dies at his feet from a heart attack — becomes almost too much for him to bear: I went back to the trailer and had, as the ladies say where. The southern past is also at the heart of Sullivans first book, blood Horses: Notes of a sportwriters Son (2004). There, he offers up a multi-pronged narrative, daddy including an off-kilter history of horse racing, a jaunt through Kentucky culture, and a moving memoir of his relationship with his late father, a sportswriter for. The courier-journal in louisville.
Sullivan lunges into evangelical culture with shrewd and humorous discernment, but with an empathic mindset and no superfluous bathos. Wolfe and Didion, one imagines, would likely observe creation with a condescending gaze from afar; and if Thompson had written about an analogous event, it undoubtedly would have been apocalyptically-tinged (or at the very least psychedelically-shaded). In a sense, the closest New journalistic ancestor of this essay is Terry southerns 1963. Esquire piece Twirling at Ole miss. Sullivan, too, has a propensity for the comically absurd, or as southern puts it in Twirling, one of those incredible bits of irony which sometimes do occur in life, but are never suitable for fiction. Upon This Rock is infused with such incredible bits — for instance, when Sullivan recounts this scene while driving in to Creation: Their line of traffic lurched ahead, and an old orange datsun came up beside. I watched as the driver rolled down her window, leaned halfway out, and blew a long, clear note on a rams horn. I understand where you might be coming from in doubting that.
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Sullivans work, however, isnt a mere pastiche of his forebears. Hes not engrossed with social status like wolfe, nor does he succumb to the cynical grandiloquence one often finds pro in Thompsons journalistic transgressions. And unlike didion, whose early nonfiction routinely stripped away façades to expose fraud, sullivan works in the opposite direction, humanely revealing the complexity within subjects typically seen as neglected, overwrought, or insipid. Wolfe and his contemporaries, rather than illustrating, say, class hardships, chiefly addressed in their reportage newfangled phenomena and fringe subcultures with a mix of literary flair and a detached, ethnological eye. Whats so fresh about Sullivans essayistic temperament, on the other hand, is that he runs his nonfictions through a southern Gothic filter, emphasizing particularly the tragicomic side of the genre and its often overlooked compassion.
Throughout the collection, his subjects — dehumanized outliers and the ineffable cultural artifact — are those with histories that adhere like kudzu weed. If theres an ethos that frames the work, its at once an American sense of the grotesque and William faulkners well-known adage from. Requiem for a nun : The past is never dead. Its not even past. Take upon This Rock, pulphead s opening essay in which Sullivan covers Creation, a christian rock-festival in rural Pennsylvania.
In the swirl of commentary surrounding. Pulphead, the essay collection by john Jeremiah Sullivan, nothing seems to come up more than the so-called New journalism. Upon its release, for instance, the volumes publisher claimed that Sullivan channels the gonzo energy of Hunter. Thompson and the wit and insight of joan Didion, while lev grossman. Time magazine writes that he is the closest thing we have right now to tom Wolfe, and that includes Tom Wolfe.
Bookforum, says, pulphead calls to mind some of the best New journalism of the 60s and 70s. Undoubtedly, sullivan — a 37-year-old writer-at-large for. Gq, a contributing editor for, harpers, and the southern editor. The paris review — is an admirer of the ur-texts by the preeminent essayists of the movement. Like them in their best work, sullivan proves to be a masterful handler of cultural confusion, approaching matters from oblique angles while eschewing boilerplate themes and orderly conclusions. In his introduction to the 1973 anthology. The new journalism, wolfe argues that the writers collected therein drew heavily from the techniques of realism — particularly of the sort found in fielding, Smollett, balzac, dickens and Gogol.
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Come with me, he said. He took them to a large room and distributed a so-called psychometric test—matching triangles and circles, determining patterns. The next day, lists were posted announcing who had passed and failed. Although he had no idea what the test determined, mondlane was pleased to see his name on the list of those who had passed. He briefly imagined write himself in Zagreb, wearing a fur-collared coat and holding a beer stein. He was directed to take a second test, one he could only recall later as assessing ones aptitude in general culture. This, too, he passed. . Finally the government told the remaining fifteen students what the tests were for. With an air of great benevolence and gravity, a functionary from the ministry of Work told Gabriel he would be working in the movies.
He would step on a landmine or get shot by a rhodesian troopie. He was as good as dead. Then the government officials made an unexpected announcement. Tomorrow the students were not to go to school, they were to go to the ministry of Work, and they were to bring a pen. He arrived at the site the following morning. There were many students milling around, each carrying his pen. A government functionary filezilla greeted them. Are you the group that was told to bring a pen?
and return to lead mozambique on its path toward socialist modernity. Alternatively the government could send him to some rural backwater, where he would teach the alphabet to children under a mango tree. This wasnt great but it was preferable to option three: dying for the end of white supremacy in Rhodesia. Not that Mondlane didnt hate white supremacy, but he was 18 years old and had graduated from high school, a feat that was only an abstraction for most black mozambicans. It would be a shame if after all that he just went and died. As the government henchmen took his name, he became increasingly certain: because of the bad grade a few weeks ago he would be sent to the border with Rhodesia. He would run after white men who wore ridiculous safari shorts and knee socks and try to kill them with an AK-47.
Essays, emily witt, published in, issue 8: Recessional, publication date fall 2009. Francis Alys (In collaboration with Angel Toxqui untitled (gun number 17A), wood, metal, plastic, film reels, film, ". Courtesy of david Zwirner, new York. Gabriel Mondlane had failed a test, so when a group of government officials entered his write chemistry class at the technical institute and ordered everyone to stand up and give their names, he was sure their purpose was to send him to war. Some of his classmates, after dutifully standing up, promptly fled the room. It was 1977 in Maputo, capital of mozambique. The country, just two years into independence, was engaged in conflict with white supremacist Rhodesia. Frelimo, mozambiques Marxist ruling party, was sheltering Robert Mugabe and his rebel fighters, which angered the Rhodesians, who would periodically make cross-border raids into mozambique. In those days, therefore, when the government came knocking at your technical institute, there were three possible outcomes.
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Just another point worth noting. When you build your planets or scenes from only the basics of what you need, they render fast. The minimum number of functions doing the maximum amount of work. This is one point about the altitude distorter. We have position and we have altitude. If you combine those two things you get amazing assignment intricacies with few functions. I only get into heavy render times if I make a very complex terrain or have some heavy sky things going.