Area Man Featured in Area Newspaper.

Download the pdf, if you're in the mood.

I grew up in a little town in the south of Minnesota, Rochester — home of the Mayo Clinic. My father was an orthopedic surgeon there, with an office on the 6th floor.

He died on July 3rd, 1966, almost 45 years ago to the day.

I wrote a book about growing up as his son and a son of Rochester titled Thirty Rooms To Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic. I thought it might be of interest particularly to the citizens there and so contacted the Rochester Post-Bulletin. There, with the help of a nice editor named Marissa Block, we put together the article you see here. You can download a pdf of the article (click here ) but I’m pretty sure the book is better. You can get that as a Kindle or a paperback at amazon, a Nook version at Barnes&Noble.com, or an iBook at Apple.

Mystery Whipple-Reading Girl To Win Early Copy of Sullivan’s 2nd Book.

Who is she?

A friend from New York sent me this picture, snapped while on board a New York City subway.

I don’t know who the woman is, but obviously she has great taste in books and I have every reason to believe she’d love a free signed copy of my second book, Thirty Rooms To Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic.

I’d send her one today, but I don’t know who she is. Does anybody? Could you please use the social buttons directly below and ask around? Thanks all.   –Luke

Mike Lescarbeau was not paid to write this review of THIRTY ROOMS.

Art director Tom Lichtenheld drew this picture of Lescarbeau at a Fallon creative retreat in the '90s.

The New York Times continues its strange silence on the subject of my new book, Thirty Rooms To Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic. But guess, what? My old Fallon friend, Mike Lescarbeau (who is now the effen CEO of Carmichael/Lynch), Mike was an early reader.

And people? He came out of the water over the book. He totally and completely loved it. In fact, he wrote two reviews of the book, the first one being my favorite. It was this email, sent five minutes after he finished the book.

“Holy fuck.”

Now that is a review, my friends.

Later on he sent me this longer version.

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Luke Sullivan has crafted what may be the definitive work within the now well-trod genre of alcoholic memoir. An 18-year labor of love, Thirty Rooms to Hide In announces from the start it won’t be your average Dr. Phil production as a young Sullivan and his brothers giggle their way through their brilliant, 45-year-old father’s funeral.

Yes, Dr. Charles Roger Sullivan was a world-renowned Mayo Clinic surgeon who drank himself to death and left a wife and six sons to live on (for a time) in the Midwestern manse whose rooms provide the book’s title – and the setting for many of its most harrowing scenes.

But this is so much more than a collection of stories about a scary drunk dad. And for that we can thank author Sullivan’s failure to find what TV psychologists like to call “closure.”

Coming up short as he looks for meaning in the abusive acts of a sick parent, Sullivan instead succeeds by embracing emotional ambiguity. He returns again and again to the theme of coexisting emotional opposites, bringing us into intimate contact with the Sullivan boys and their good mother as they learn to keep simultaneous company with pairings like joy and despair, horror and relief, and, ultimately, love and hate.

The marrying of so many conflicting feelings could make for another tedious volume of navel gazing, but in Sullivan’s hands, the material is transcendent. In its willingness to sidestep easy answers and pat conclusions, his book delivers a refreshing honesty that somehow makes the creepy parts creepier, and the funny ones outright hysterical.

The read-it-to-someone-aloud passages are too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say the sense of humor developed by Sullivan and his brothers – at least for readers’ purposes – almost serves to exonerate the twisted behavior that made it a necessity.

Never prescriptive or preachy, this gothic tale nonetheless imparts a firsthand guide to surviving cruelty at the hands of someone who’s meant to love you:

When it gets bad, hide.

When you can’t hide, run.

When you can’t run, well, you better be ready to laugh.

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Thanks Mike for your support, your friendship, and for letting me reprint this review. For which you received $0.00.

Whatever you’re making, make it way better than it has to be.

An excerpt from the 4th edition of “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This,” due out in February, 2012.

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Remember how it felt the first time you held a new iPod or iPhone? Remember the delight you felt with every detail? The texture of the metal; the precious curve of the housing; the precise click of each button? I doubt I’m the only one who thought these angelic details made those little devices from Cupertino feel perfect – not just good, but perfect. At Apple, they call this design ethos making something “insanely great.”

I call it making something way better than it has to be and Apple isn’t the only place you can enjoy the benefits of fanatical attention to detail. You can hear it in the slam of the door on a new Audi. Feel it in the delicious weight of a Waterford crystal glass. Or hear it in any Beatles song. (Sue me. I still love ‘em.) All these things are made way better than they have to be.

As we begin to discuss the crafts of writing and art direction in more detail, I want to impress upon you here the importance of doing work that is insanely great; of employing these crafts to the very best of your ability. Because in the end they are all you have at your command to get a reader or viewer to lean in. And this leaning in is the ultimate goal for any artist, especially us advertising artists.

Let me describe leaning in this way: Over the years I’ve judged many advertising award shows and for the print portion of these competitions, thousands of ads are laid out on a series of long tables. The advertising judges (usually slightly crispy from the carousing in the bars the night before) wander up and down the aisles looking for work they think worthy of recognizing and reprinting in the award annuals. During the many times I’ve watched the judges judge, I’ve always seen a magic little moment when the judge stops, bends at the waist, and leans in to more closely study a particular piece. What is it, I wondered, that made the judge lean in?

Over the years, I’ve come to believe the operative element is subliminal; not subliminal advertising the way Vance Packard complained about in his conspiracy book The Hidden Persuaders. No, the operative element we’re talking about here is subliminal quality. The very word sublime helps explain my point. “Limen” is Latin for threshold. Below the threshold of awareness. We’re talking about baking quality so far into a thing that people who look at it perceive this quality subconsciously. They know they’re looking at something of quality before they’re even conscious of it because when a thing is made way better than it has to be its quality comes off of it in waves.

In his marvelous book, Paste Up, my old Fallon friend Bob Blewett agrees: “I believe 
the effort and struggle 
to create 
simplicity and grace 
live on in the work 
like a soul … and as the ad leaves the agency, your effort and care stand over the ad like a benediction.”

Blewett’s benediction is the force I’ve been getting at here; the force which makes someone lean in to study whatever it is you’ve created. There’s no shortcut around Blewett’s requirement; it takes “effort and struggle to create simplicity and grace.” It means sweating the details of whatever ad or script or site you’re working on and going to any length to get it right, and then going beyond that. It means not letting even the smallest thing slide; that if a thing bothers you even a teeny bit, you work on it till it doesn’t bother you and then you keep working until it actually pleases you.

I forget where I read this metaphor, but what you get for your trouble is like the difference between a regular drinking glass, a good one, and Waterford crystal. A flick of your finger on the first yields a “tung.” A wine glass might give you a “tang.” But only Waterford will give you that unmistakable “ting.”

Tung. Tang. Ting. Don’t stop until you get to ting.

This extra effort is how all of life’s pursuits are turned into art; yes, even advertising. An old man from Bali once patiently explained to an anthropologist studying his culture: “We have no  ‘art.’ 
 We do everything as well as possible.”

This unwavering attention to detail will not only improve your craft and improve your client’s fortunes, it will improve you.

This first good review of my book is actually a good review of my mom, its hero.

The hero of the story.

It’s so weird having a book on the market. It’s like sending your baby’s pictures out there. (“Please, please, no one say my baby ugly, my baby not ugly, little baby he not ugly.”)

Then along comes Jane Nation’s review. Jane Nation is a cool website/blog with the descriptor “The World According To Women.” Which makes it a very good place to review a book like Thirty Rooms To Hide In because the hero is a woman: my mother. (It doesn’t hurt that I knew the reviewer in a former life, but I still say this counts as a review, dammit.)

While the book is partly about the ’50s and ’60s, partly about insanity and rock & roll, partly about hostile dads and long dark hallways….  it’s very much about my mom. About how she managed to brilliantly survive a decade of psychological abuse from her husband while raising six sons and doing it all in an era when a woman really couldn’t expect help from anyone. (“It stays in the family.”)

Much of the book is based on the huge cache of letters she wrote to her father; letters written from the foxhole of her marriage and the huge dangerous house she shared with her husband.

Some readers are already asking if they can write to her and I’m thinking there may be a lot more asking the same thing. I just emailed her a little while ago and asked her if I can give these fans her email address. She was a hero and people like to talk to heroes.

The website is thirtyroomstohidein.com.

And the book is available on amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble, and at Blurb.