Acute Misfortune by Erik Jensen | Black Inc.

Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen

Awards for Acute Misfortune

  • Winner, 2015 Nib Waverley Library Award for Literature
  • Shortlisted, 2015 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards
  • Shortlisted, 2015 Walkley Book Award

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About the author

Erik Jensen

Erik Jensen is the award-winning author of I said the sea was foldedOn Kate Jennings; Acute Misfortune, which was developed into a film; and the Quarterly Essay The Prosperity Gospel. He is founding editor …

More about Erik Jensen

Praise for Acute Misfortune

‘Fierce and spellbinding’ —David Marr

‘If biography is the art of dismantling your subject, while pretending to be a mere scribe, then Jensen is superb as both beautician and mortician’ —Charles Waterstreet

‘The book is riveting and sad. A must-read for art lovers’ —Daily Telegraph


Acute Misfortune is a fascinating, non-judgmental exploration of the forces that shaped Cullen’s life…It’s a pacy, absorbing read. Jensen has a wonderfully light touch that balances the extremities of the story.’ —Australian


‘Whether you know of Cullen or his work is not important. Here is an astounding, seductive and unwittingly moving portrait – an addictive read.’ —Readings Monthly


‘Terrifying and terrific’ —Wheeler Centre, Best Books of 2014

‘Like the painter himself, [Jensen] eschews a conventional form and tone for one that is compressed, nonjudgmental, and mostly impressionistic.’ —the Age


‘It is both the writerly and generational angle that makes this book refreshing… ultimately, this book belongs to the canon of addiction literature and is thankfully nuanced beyond its obvious new journalism inheritance.’ —Artlink


‘Beautifully designed, eloquently tragic’ —Books of the Year, the Age


‘One of the years finest endeavours … There’s a raw and volatile beauty to this part-harrowing, part-inspiring tragedy.’ - Top ten books of 2014, New Daily


‘A sober book about a man who was anything but. A clear-eyed, careful account of a squandered life that is generous and unusual in Jensen’s refusal to condemn or opine about a man who was a stew of wretched characteristics common to an addict.’ —Kate Jennings

‘A fascinating look at how the creative urge is so often accompanied by the urge for self-destruction’ —Courier Mail


‘Jensen’s cool eye and determination to avoid the tortured artist clichés makes [the book] weirdly, impressively compelling.’ —Australian Women's Weekly


‘Told with wit, perception and empathy by a young and gifted writer, Erik Jensen’s Acute Misfortune, his first book, is a finely written account of the self-destructive, charismatic Australian painter.’ —Best Books of 2014, Weekend Australian


‘Horribly riveting’ —AFR Magazine


‘Raw and uncompromising’ —Herald Sun


‘Brave, expressive, funny, pungent, revelatory, and at times very sad’ —Sydney Review of Books


‘Jensen has delivered a lucid portrait of a deeply complicated talent; one of the best nonfiction releases of 2014 to date’ —Books & Publishing Online


‘A teasing and complex ode to a man who defied attempts to categorise him or to understand him. Jensen’s portrait dares to be both beautiful and ugly - that is, he is both tender and forensic. This is a marvellous, propulsive, intelligent read.’ —Christos Tsiolkas

‘The terrible force of the painter’s rush to self-destruction is matched all the way by the writer’s calm mastery of his story.’ – Helen Garner


‘This is supposed to be about an artist, a wild man, his lifetime, and it is; but Jensen has written such a beautiful window that all art and life is shining through. I'm supposed to be an artist but I can not put this down.’ —DBC Pierre

‘Erik Jensen gives us that ingenious place where biography is also art.’ —Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International, author of Widow Basquiat

‘Erik Jensen is a Boswell or Vasari for our baffled, fractured, fucked-up times. Acute Misfortune is the most intimate, revealing, and original take on an artist’s life I know of.’ 
—Sebastian Smee, art critic, Washington Post

More from Erik Jensen

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