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.
After much critical acclaim, Acute Misfortune was developed into a feature film, winning The Age Critics Award at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2018.
The story is by turns tender and horrifying: a spare tale of art, sex, drugs and childhood, told at close quarters and without judgement.
Winner, 2015 Nib Waverley Library Award for Literature
Shortlisted, 2015 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards
Shortlisted, 2015 Walkley Book Award
‘Erik Jensen is a Boswell or Vasari for our baffled, fractured, f****d-up times. Acute Misfortune is the most intimate, revealing, and original take on an artist’s life I know of.’ —Sebastian Smee
‘Erik Jensen gives us that ingenious place where biography is also art.’ —Jennifer Clement