John Jeremiah Sullivan, the author behind Pulphead, recently visited the KQED studios to record an episode of The Writers' Block. Get to know him a little better with this Q+A, in which he talks about his childhood dream of fighting the Russians and how he hobble-clapped at a Mellencamp concert.
What kind of kid were you and what did you want to be when you grew up?
JSS: I think I was strange, and considered so by some. But also sweet and talkative enough that I always had a few close friends. I wanted to die fighting the Russians, but should they for some reason not appear, I would become a New World archaeologist.
What was your first concert?
JSS: John Cougar Mellencamp. Leg was broken, both bones, from football game. Giant heavy brace-like contraption on it. Picture my dad helping me stand up over and over to hobble-clap.
You've written about everything from Michael Jackson to Hurricane Katrina to touring with Guns 'n' Roses to an 18th-century German who worked to unite Native Americans against colonialism. Is there a subject you've always wanted to write about, but haven't had the chance?
John Jeremiah Sullivan: Always wanted to write about surfing.
What essay are you proudest of and why?
JSS: I'm proudest of how they fit together, but the one on Andrew Lytle has my best writing.
You're on stage at a karaoke bar. What are you singing?
JSS: The crap out of something. Probably by Big Country.
If you could visit any other time period and place in history, which would it be and what would you do there?
JSS: March 1930. Grafton, Wisconsin. Interview Geeshie Wiley.
If you could invite 3 people (dead/alive/fictional) to your dinner party, who would they be and why?
JSS: My father, my wife, Spinoza. The first because I miss him, the second because I have more fun when she's with me, the third so he could explain existence.
What are you working on right now?
JSS: Digesting Thanksgiving.
Listen to John Jeremiah Sullivan's episode of The Writers' Block . And be sure not to miss each episode as it becomes available by subscribing to The Writers' Block podcast!