This book has received a lot of notice in the past week from influential sources. Sullivan's name gets put into sentences with Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, and David Foster Wallace. However, I find those comparisons lacking. Sullivan's got something in his voice that sets him apart from those guys, something that might be a willingness to go vulnerable, and to mount a prodigious intellect on top of that willingness. True curiosity requires it. Wolfe, Thompson, and DFW didn't have it so much, as far as I can tell, although they did have tremendous merits. Bob Dylan, as great as he is, and as much as I love his work, doesn't have it. In 50 years since Dylan first appeared, has a female writer ever written anything of import about Dylan? In the terrific Bob Dylan Reader there's only one piece by a woman, a brief inconsequential piece by Joyce Carol Oates.
So much of the popularity of Wolfe, Thompson, DFW, and Dylan is male wish-fulfillment, and those four artists knew it. Sullivan may know it, but his work doesn't show it. I don't remember any strong, supportive pieces about Wolfe, Thompson, or DFW by women, either. I'm not a Sullivan scholar, but I check out most of the literary outlets fairly regularly and I know that the influential blogger Maud Newton is a vocal supporter of Sullivan's.
It will be interesting to see what Sullivan produces over the next twenty years. He could emerge as the most significant writer of the time, somebody I'd put in a sentence with Didion, Sebald, Berger, McPhee, and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.