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Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen

by Erik Jensen

In 2008 the artist Adam Cullen invited journalist Erik Jensen to stay in his spare room and write his biography.

What followed were four years of intense honesty and a relationship that became increasingly claustrophobic. At one point Cullen shot Jensen, in part to see how committed he was to the book. At another, he threw Jensen from a speeding motorbike. The book contract Cullen used to convince Jensen to stay with him never existed.

Acute Misfortune is a riveting account of the life and death of one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, the man behind the Archibald Prize-winning portrait of David Wenham. Jensen follows Cullen through drug deals and periods of deep self-reflection, onwards into his court appearance for weapons possession and finally his death in 2012 at the age of forty-six. The story is by turns tender and horrifying: a spare tale of art, sex, drugs and childhood, told at close quarters and without judgement.

“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


12 September, 2014

About Erik Jensen

Erik Jensen started in journalism at the age of 15, working as a critic and features writer for Sydney’s largest music magazine, The Drum Media. A year later, he was offered a job writing on music for the Sydney Morning Herald, where he contributed weekly reviews and occasional opinion. He finished school as a Premier’s Best All-Rounder and, in 2007, became a news reporter with the Herald – the youngest person to join the paper’s news staff in two decades.


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