Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

A Confrontation with Relaxation

Against his better judgment, John Jeremiah Sullivan heads to the spa

November 9, 2012 Sewanee graduate and author of the acclaimed essay collection Pulphead John Jeremiah Sullivan has written a new essay about his reluctant adventures in massage and other spa treatments, which ranged from a biodynamic facial/massage to the application of Tibetan singing bowls. On assignment from The New York Times Magazine, where he is a contributing writer, Sullivan addresses his discomfort with being touched by strangers, only to be surprised by his response to the bodywork. He doesn’t claim to have found peace, admitting that his “anxiety proved impenetrable to all modalities,” but the treatments surprised him with their power to increase his perception of his own body. Hitting the spa also revived him somewhat from the “new levels of vileness” his appearance had reached after a long run of work-related travel. As Sullivan writes, “Why wouldn’t you want to look slightly less ghastly?” Read the rest of the essay here.

To read Chapter 16’s review of Pulphead, click here. To read Chapter 16’s roundup of critical responses to Pulphead, click here.