Cover image for Undersurface : a novel
Undersurface : a novel
Cullin, Mitch, 1968-
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Publication Information:
Sag Harbor, NY : Permanent Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
166 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
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From acclaimed author Mitch Cullin, whose previous books have been described by The New York Times as brilliant and beautiful...rhythmic and telling, comes Undersurface, a chilling page-turner that recalls Alfred Hitchcock and novelist Kobo Abe at his most existential. Probing the complex relationship between outward appearances and inward states of profound want, it is a story that at turns is intriguing and sordid, poetic and allusive, told in a compact yet intense manner, offering a distinctive take on a society far more complicated than what Americans often gather from their televisions and newspaper headlines.Based roughly on real events, this fictional account follows its oblique protagonist as he moves through the loitering subculture found within public toilets and pornographic arcades, and, in the process, finds himself loosing everything he values, including his own grip on reality.A mystery of both memory and mistaken identity, Undersurface is a starkly written, haunting novel about double lives, compulsion, and human sexuality, where secret desires lead to devastating circumstances.As the carefully crafted plot twists in ever suspenseful directions, we are drawn toward a startling, possibly unavoidable conclusion, one which resonates long after the book has been set aside.

Author Notes

Mitch Cullin lives & works in Tucson, Arizona. He is the author of three previously-published novels: "Tidelands", "Branches", & "Whompyjawed".

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In Cullin's novels, the desert-bound cities of the Southwest are the settings of scenarios of sex and humiliation in which protagonists find new hope--or degradation. In UnderSurface, a homeless man sleeps in an arroyo on the edge of a city and pals with a crazed but harmless old man. In ever lengthier flashbacks, Cullin reveals the man as a high-school English teacher who, sexually bored with his wife, discovered anonymous male-male sex in adult-video arcades and public rest rooms. He developed a habit and later a regular rendezvous with another married man. They were about to engage one night when a shot rang out. Fleeing, the protagonist sees a dead man at the urinals. The victim was a cop on vice duty, and eventually, trying to help the murder investigation, the protagonist became a suspect. He ran, and he runs, in an increasingly hallucinatory conclusion, into genuine culpability that expunges all hope for him. A gritty morality play such as Hubert Selby might stage in the more crowded desert called Brooklyn. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cullin's latest (after The Cosmology of Bing) is a brief but incisive account of a Tucson teacher's descent into the lurid, furtive world of illicit gay sex, which lands him in the wrong place at the wrong time when a murder is committed. John Connor is the ordinary, sensitive narrator whose descent begins when he finds himself frequenting adult video stores after his sex life with his wife sours. Despite his guilt, Connor becomes a regular at the restrooms in public parks where he finds like-minded men for quick, anonymous sex. Cullin's grim description of Connor's increasingly risky encounters turns lyrical when Connor hits it off with a fellow middle-class lover he calls Polo, but the tone shifts when a murder occurs during one of their meetings in a public restroom. Stricken by guilt after fleeing, Connor approaches a Tucson detective, not knowing that the police have already connected him to the crime. When his arrest becomes imminent and his wife leaves with their two children, he goes underground, living homeless on the edge of Tucson as he tries to puzzle his way through his bizarre dilemma. Cullin packs a lot of literary power into relatively few pages. As a crime narrative based on a true story, the book is a chilling if somewhat dated tale of a misstep morphing into free fall; as a literary character study, Connor's attempt to come to terms with his situation is both haunting and compelling. Perhaps best of all is Cullin's poetic but economical description of the plight of the homeless as John Connor enters their world in this memorable novel. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved