James Wood compares John Jeremiah Sullivan favorably to Tom Wolfe and David Foster Wallace - “he is kinder than the former, and less neurotic than the latter” - and then really gets down into his “storyteller’s gifts” - and later adopts an almost prophetic tone as he touches on the state of the creative essay, and how it relates to the contemporary novel.
Unlike Tom Wolfe or Joan Didion, who bring their famous styles along with them like well-set, just-done hair, Sullivan lets his subjects muss and alter his prose; he works like a novelist.
Wood commends Sullivan for his attention to detail and his novelistic ingenuity. On the essays themselves, Wood writes:
It is obvious enough that they are by a talented storyteller, who has learned from fiction (as well as from the essayistic tradition) how to structure and ration his narratives. He seems to have in abundance the storyteller’s gifts: he is a fierce noticer, is undauntedly curious, is porous to gossip and has a memory of childlike tenacity.
Read the entire article at the New Yorker.