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John Jeremiah Sullivan (born 1974) is an American writer, musician, teacher, and editor. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor of Harper's Magazine, and the southern editor of The Paris Review. In 2014, he edited TheBest American Essays, a collection in which his work has been featured in previous years. He has also served on the faculty of Columbia University, Sewanee: The University of the South, and other institutions.


Sullivan was born in Louisville, Kentucky to Mike Sullivan, a sportswriter. His mother is an English professor. He earned his degree in 1997 from The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee.

His first book, Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son, was published in 2004. It is part personal reminiscence, part elegy for his father, and part investigation into the history and culture of the thoroughbred racehorse.

His second book, Pulphead: Essays (2011),[1] is an anthology of fourteen previously published magazine articles, with most of them "in substantially different form"[2] for the book.

Sullivan's essay "Mister Lytle: An Essay", originally published in The Paris Review, won a number of awards and was anthologized in Pulphead. Sullivan recounts how he lived with Andrew Nelson Lytle, when Lytle was in his 90s, helping him with house chores and learning some wisdom about writing and life.

His original music appears on the self-titled album Life of Saturdays.

In 2017, he helped lead a small group of 8th-grade students on a scavenger hunt to resurrect lost copies of The Daily Record, the African-American newspaper at the center of a white supremacist coup de etat and massacre that occurred in his adopted home town of Wilmington, NC, in 1898.[3] He and his team located seven total copies, all of which are now digitized and available for view via the N.C. Digital Heritage Project.

Sullivan is married to Dr. Mariana Johnson, a film scholar and professor. They have two daughters.


  • 2003 Eclipse Award, Blood Horses
  • 2003 National Magazine Award, Feature Writing
  • 2004 Whiting Award, Nonfiction
  • 2011 National Magazine Award, Essays and Criticism, "Mister Lytle. An Essay" (The Paris Review)
  • 2011 Pushcart Prize, Pushcart XXXV, "Mister Lytle. An Essay" (The Paris Review)
  • 2014 James Beard Foundation’s MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, for "I placed a Jar in Tennessee," published in Lucky Peach.
  • 2015 ASCAP Foundation Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award
  • 2015 Windham–Campbell Literature Prize (Non-Fiction) valued at $150,000[4]
  • 2016 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, to complete The Prime Minister of Paradise[5]



Select articles[edit]

  • "Too Much Information", on David Foster Wallace, 2011.
  • "The Last Wailer", on Bunny Wailer, 2011.
  • "Back in the Day", on Michael Jackson, 2009.
  • "The Final Comeback of Axl Rose", on Axl Rose, 2006.
  • "Upon This Rock", on a visit to a Christian rock festival, 2004.
  • "Good-Bye to All That", on a visit to the Gulf Coast, post-Hurricane Katrina, 2005.
  • "He Shall Be Levi", on a visit to Alaska, to meet Levi Johnston, 2009.
  • "American Grotesque". on the Tea Party movement, 2010.
  • "Violence of the Lambs". on the coming war between animals and humans, 2011.
  • "Peyton's Place". on living in the house used for the filming of One Tree Hill, 2011.
The New Yorker
Harper's Magazine
New York Magazine
The New York Times Magazine
  • "You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!", on Disney World, 2011.
  • "My Debt to Ireland" on Ireland's Future, 2012, included in The Best American Essays, 2013
  • "How William Faulkner Tackled Race — and Freed the South From Itself" on William Faulkner, 2012.
  • "Venus and Serena Against the World" on Venus Williams and Serena Williams, 2012.
  • "Where is Cuba Going?", on Cuba's future, included in The Best American Travel Writing, 2013.
  • "The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie", about blues singers Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas, 2014.
  • "‘Shuffle Along’ and the Lost History of Black Performance in America,” 2016.
  • “How Prince Got His Name,” 2016.
The Paris Review

The Oxford American


  1. ^"Pulp Fever", Daniel Riley, GQ, November 3, 2011.
  2. ^Pulphead, Copyright page, front matter.
  3. ^"Middle Schoolers Help Transcribe, Digitize Rare Historical Newspapers". lj.libraryjournal.com. Retrieved 2018-01-29. 
  4. ^"Prize Citation for John Jeremiah Sullivan". Windham–Campbell Literature Prize. February 24, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  5. ^"2016 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grantee: John Jeremiah Sullivan". Whiting.org. Retrieved 24 January 2018. 

External links[edit]

Sullivan at home in North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Harry Taylor.

It goes without saying that students use Wikipedia extensively, probably more than any other social group. Although the website's founder Jimmy Wales once warned readers not to use the website for academic purposes, American research shows that the majority of students browse its pages when researching essays.

Most universities and academics distrust the service, my department's "Essential Guide for Students" leaves no room for ambiguity, warning us: "Never cite Wikipedia." But why is the academic world so hostile to this vast information resource? And why do students find it so hard to stay away?

The greatest strength of Wikipedia is that its contributors can chose which area they want to write about, which, in theory, means they only produce content where they are most qualified to do so. Harvard University's Professor Yochai Benkler says this explains why Wikipedia has succeeded where other more traditional business models like Microsoft Encarta and Encyclopaedia Britannica have failed.

Lancaster Law School academic Dr Richard Austen-Baker illustrates this theory. He registered with Wikipedia to clean up an article on his specialist subject – relational contract theory. The original entry was a bit "raggedy around the edges", he says. But of course, the article may well have changed since Dr Austen-Baker made his contributions – and therein lies the danger of open source content.

Academics discredit the website for several reasons: articles can be written by anyone, not necessarily a world expert; editing and regulation are imperfect and a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing. Vandalism is also common. There are numerous examples of politicians and public figures amending articles about themselves to erase unfavourable material. Wikipedia's own incomplete list of hoaxes makes interesting and comical reading (I particularly appreciated the fictitious "Township of Asstree, Tennessee").

Despite Wikipedia's drawbacks, students will continue to take advantage of the resource – and the default response of academics to simply advise against using the site is unlikely to have much effect. Lancaster lecturer Dr Catherine Easton says students must develop an ability to analyse the nature of the source material within Wikipedia, adding that the educator should ensure there is "a strong, continuing focus on the need to support academic work with references to acceptable scholarly sources".

Both of the academics questioned for this article agree that it is easy to spot essays that are over-reliant on Wikipedia, and that direct citation of the site was always unacceptable. While following the footnotes in Wikipedia pages is a way to access stronger content, they say a critical mind should be applied to each source individually. Dr Austen-Baker says that some articles on Wikipedia can be "exotically inaccurate", and that undergraduates must familiarise themselves with the equivalent, and often ignored, written encyclopaedias. He adds that over-reliance on free electronic materials makes it increasingly difficult to publish traditional books at all.

Dr Easton believes the "consensus-based" approach employed by Wikipedia might actually make the website's most popular articles less subjective than the introductions found elsewhere. But, she adds, like any information source, it can only be put to good use when it's in the hands of a discerning and critical student.


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