Sundeen, Mark 1970-

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SUNDEEN, Mark 1970-


Male. Born 1970, in Harbor City, CA. Education: Stanford University, graduated, 1992; attended University of Southern California.


Home—Moab, UT. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.


Writer. Worked variously as a house painter, store clerk, and flower delivery person; Great God Pan (magazine), cofounder and managing editor, c. 1996; Outward Bound instructor; El Camino College, writing tutor.


Car Camping: The Book of Desert Adventures, drawings by Erik R. Bluhm, Quill (New York, NY), 2000.

The Making of Toro: Bullfights, Broken Hearts, and One Author's Quest for the Acclaim He Deserves, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.


Mark Sundeen made his writing debut in 2000 with his book Car Camping: The Book of Desert Adventures. A modern-day quasi-spoof of Beat writer Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Car Camping chronicles the fictional Mark Sundeen's adventures as he packs up his Subaru and, with his cousins Shapiro and Donny Brown, heads for the Southwestern desert. Stopping in Arizona, California, Nebraska, and Utah, he encounters various characters, and works a number of odd jobs. Along the way he describes his adventures with a wry wit, mixing actually accounts with fictional endeavors. While the fictional aspects help transform the book into a novel, in Car Camping the lines between fiction and reality are often blurred. "The drawback of a writing style that combines the factual with the fictitious is that it is often difficult for the reader to distinguish between the two," stated Melinda Stivers Leach, reviewing Sundeen's book for Library Journal. Noting that Car Camping at first glance masquerades as a travel guide, Leach added that the book is "Generally entertaining"; it is, however, "of no help to those who want to go car camping in the desert." Most "Zen-inspired, spur-of-the-moment, budget desert adventures end the same way," Jason Dietrich added in his Easy Reader review of Car Camping. "A hangover, an all-night drive home, a deep seated aversion to wide open spaces, a story to laugh about at family reunions and a profound lack of any sort of spiritual fulfillment is all the travelers come back with. The remaining one percent end up with a radically different lifestyle and a publishing contract. Mark Sundeen is in that one percent."

In The Making of Toro: Bullfights, Broken Hearts, and One Author's Quest for the Acclaim He Deserves Sundeen once again delivers a quirky mix of reality and fiction disguised as travelogue. This time Sundeen adopts the persona of Travis LaFrance, an overconfident and dilettantish writer who proclaims "My art is my life, and versa vice." Traveling to Mexico and totally ignorant of the subject about which he is to write, Sundeen/LaFrance grapples for words sufficient to transform the dismal circumstances he actually uncovers in Mexico into an exotic and exciting account. When in reality he finds himself sitting in a dingy diner eating undercooked chicken, he is in fact experiencing an exotic delicacy allowed only to the most respected of quests. As Mark Holcomb noted in the Village Voice, the book's plot pivots on "Sundeen's dawning awareness that the Hemingwayesque life … that he envisions is a hollow, predigested fantasy, and his self-deprecation on this matter is disarmingly funny."

David Pitt, reviewing The Making of Toro for Booklist, called the book "funny, surreal, and thoroughly oneof-a-kind, an exciting adventure about a grand misadventure." Library Journal contributor Jim Burns stated that Sundeen's sarcastic narrative "grows on you, if for no other reason than that he's not afraid to laugh at himself. His well-bred gringo reaction to his first bullfight in Mexico is hilarious … and his explanation of the invention of LaFrance will be recognized as right on by many other children of privilege who are riddled by guilt at the social station handed to them." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called The Making of Toro "a skewed travelogue, in which the line between a gritty reality and a chimerical fantasy is warmly blurred."



Booklist, March 15, 2003, David Pitt, review of The Making of Toro: Bullfights, Broken Hearts, and One Author's Quest for the Acclaim He Deserves, p. 1268.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2003, review of The Making of Toro, p. 219.

Library Journal, July 2000, Melinda Stivers Leach, review of Car Camping: The Book of Desert Adventures, p. 126; March 15, 2003, Jim Burns, review of The Making of Toro, p. 90.

New York Times Book Review, May 14, 2000, Anthony Bourdain, review of Car Camping, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, April 21, 2003, review of The Making of Toro, p. 51.

Village Voice, September 3-9, 2003, Mark Holcomb, "Write What You Know."


Easy Reader Online, (July 13, 2000), Jason Dietrich, review of Car Camping.

L.A. Weekly Online, (October 12, 2003).*