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American writer and editor (1974- )

John Jeremiah Sullivan quote

You know nobody's ever going to see the stuff, but you have to write through it. You're just trying to satisfy some grim, barren mandate. There's probably a German word for that.

JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, The Paris Review, winter 2012

We live in such constant nearness to the abyss of past time that the moment is endlessly sucked into.


There is no ideal length, but you develop a little interior gauge that tells you whether or not you’re supporting the house or detracting from it. When a piece gets too long, the tension goes out of it. That word—tension—has an animal insistence for me. A piece of writing rises and falls with tension. The writer holds one end of the rope and the reader holds the other end—is the rope slack, or is it tight? Does it matter to the reader what the next sentence is going to be?

JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, "Everything is more complicated than you think," The Economist, Nov. 14, 2011

There does come a point where you have to make this mental decision to shut off the editing instinct; otherwise, you can’t exist as a writer; the writer is a little antagonistic with that voice. You go to write one sentence and can instantly think of five good reasons why it shouldn’t be like that, but that’s not the way writing works; you’re saying something because you have to say it.

JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, interview, Los Angeles Review of Books, Dec. 2011

I think it sometimes has to do with changing substances in the middle of a piece, moving from coffee to a cocktail or something.

JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, conversation with Geoff Dyer at 192 Books, 2012

Now and then, in a work of military history, one reads a description of a battle somewhere and blinks at the number of horses killed. So far as I am aware, no one has ever put these descriptions together and made a book about the suffering of the warhorse in history. It would be difficult to read. They are so obedient: that is their problem. We can train them to such a degree of submission that they will not shrink from sights or sounds that make the average man loose in the bowels. Century after century, we have prosecuted our insane conflicts from atop their backs, resting on their sturdy necks when we grew weary, eating their flesh when we were starving, disemboweling them and crawling inside their bodies when we were freezing.

JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son

It's funny. I think that so often, what can give one the confidence, weirdly, is a kind of despair. Despairing of being able to do anything else. Or maybe that's hyperbole. Maybe it's more like resignation, really. Of just arriving at a particular style, which is what you default to given all the other things that you can't do.

JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, conversation with Geoff Dyer at 192 Books, 2012

I'm just saying, take courage. That and pretty much that alone is never the incorrect thing to do.


I suspect that on some level — the conscious one, say — I didn’t want to be noticing what I noticed as we went. But I’ve been to a lot of huge public events in this country during the past five years, writing about sports or what ever, and one thing they all had in common was this weird implicit enmity that American males, in particular, seem to carry around with them much of the time. Call it a laughable generalization, fine, but if you spend enough late afternoons in stadium concourses, you feel it, something darker than machismo. Something a little wounded, and a little sneering, and just plain ready for bad things to happen.


Not watching TV gets me in a lot of trouble in my household, because my wife and daughter have a lot of shows they like to watch. I joke about throwing our TV in the creek. If that happens, my daughter has an elaborate revenge fantasy where she puts me in the creek on a raft, and I'm allowed one bowl of soup and a cell phone.

JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, "Everything is more complicated than you think," The Economist, Nov. 14, 2011

My God, there have been more tears shed on reality TV than by all the war widows of the world.


The justification for rap rock seems to be that if you take really bad rock and put really bad rap over it, the result is somehow good, provided the raps are barked by an overweight white guy with cropped hair and forearm tattoos.



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