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Tideland Hardcover – August 28, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Traces of Faulkner's A Rose for Emily and faint echoes of the horror film classic Psycho infuse this highly charged, eccentrically imaginative narrative by the author of Branches. The unusual tale comprises mainly dialogues between 11-year-old Jeliza-Rose and her four bodiless Barbie doll heads as she wanders about the isolated landscape of a house beside the railroad tracks in bleak rural Texas, interrupted periodically by the dynamite exploding in a nearby limestone quarry. Jeliza-Rose's mother is dead from a heroin overdose. The girl's father, 67-year-old Noah, a drug-addicted, has-been rock guitarist, leaves his wife's corpse on the bed in their sleazy L.A. apartment and takes his abused, disturbed daughter on a Greyhound bus to his long-dead mother's home. There Noah pins a map of Denmark on the wall and sits and stares trancelike for days on end. Jeliza-Rose soon encounters Dell, an eccentric neighbor woman who wears a beekeeper's veil and has a brain-damaged brother named Dickens. Precocious (and often pretentious) conversations between Jeliza-Rose and her Barbie heads (one is named Classique) serve to illumine the girl's disturbed state of mind and to further the surreal plot. As Jeliza-Rose's fantasy world collides with Dell's appalling secret, a grotesque history is revealed. This brutal portrait of a young girl's unbearable childhood requires immersion in her fevered imagination, and is relieved only at the end by Jeliza-Rose's brave effort to save herself from total breakdown. (Aug.)
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From Kirkus Reviews

Cullin returns to the rural Texas landscape of his Whompyjawed (1999) and Branches (p. 5), in a narrative that veers unevenly between mordant humor and a self-conscious quirkiness that too often undercuts his real gift for language and invention.The precocious and preternaturally observant adolescent narrator, Jeliza-Rose, is a classic American literary type reminiscent of Harper Lee's Scout and Carson McCullers's Frankie. After her mother dies of a drug overdose, Jeliza-Rose and her father move from Los Angeles to Texas, returning to What Rocks, the farm that belonged to her late grandmother. Her father, Noah-also a former junkie-is a gifted guitarist and songwriter who dreams of moving to Denmark. Why Denmark? Like much else here, the reason seems rooted less in a coherent narrative structure than in authorial whimsy. Nothing particularly pressing keeps father and daughter living at What Rocks, other than a lack of money and of will to go anywhere else. Jeliza-Rose is left to fend for herself, and, like children everywhere, she has a prodigious imagination that keeps her continually diverted while her neglectful father lapses into a terminal dreaminess. She befriends a lonely scarecrow of a man called Dickens, an eccentric woman, Dell, who likes to wander around wearing a beekeeper's protective mask, and a stuttering boy named Patrick. Jeliza-Rose also calls on a large collection of Barbie dolls for amusement. Cullin has a wonderful feel for the big and wide Texas landscape that Jeliza-Rose finds herself in. His descriptions of how a child can happily lose herself in the long grass, wildflowers, and mesquite are lyrical without being precious.There's not much of a story for Cullin to hang his sharply drawn, often poignant evocation of childhood on. Still, his feel for the painful awkwardness and sensitivity of adolescence is worth the trip. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Dufour Editions; First Edition edition (August 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802313353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802313355
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,404,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in New Mexico during the "crossfire hurricane" year of 1968, Mitch Cullin is the author of eight books of fiction, including the novel-in-verse BRANCHES, THE COSMOLOGY OF BING, UNDERSURFACE, and the globe-spanning story collection FROM THE PLACE IN THE VALLEY DEEP IN THE FOREST. To date, his books have been translated into 14 languages.

A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND, his revisionist account of an elderly Sherlock Holmes in retirement, is currently in pre-production with Focus Features. The film adaptation of his novel TIDELAND was directed and co-scripted by former Monty Pythoner Terry Gilliam, produced by Jeremy Thomas, and starred Jeff Bridges, Janet McTeer, and Jennifer Tilly. Besides slowly loosing his hair and writing novels in increasingly smaller and expensive dwellings throughout southwestern America, he continues to collaborate in all things with his long-term partner Peter I. Chang.

With Chang as director/editor, he produced I WANT TO DESTROY AMERICA, a documentary about the street musician Hisao Shinagawa that premiered at the 2006 Atlanta Underground Film Festival and went on to have multiple screenings at the 2006 Santa Fe Film Festival. In 2009, a second Chang-Cullin documentary feature, TOKYO IS DREAMING, had its premier at the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in the U.K., and features a soundtrack by Calexico's John Convertino.

He continues to write novels in decreasing spurts and increasing sputters, but usually he can be found ambling around his garden in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Itamar Katz on September 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
Tideland is a fascinating read that stops just short of being good enough to be considered a classic. Even if at first it seems just another updated version of Alice In Wonderland / The Wizard of Oz / The Neverending Story etc. - a child creating a fantasy world as a way of dealing with difficulties of life and a metaphor for growing up - it becomes abundantly clear very early on that Jeliza-Rose's story is a very different one from those of Alice and Dorothy. Tideland is decisively stronger and darker than those classics, and subtlety is all but forgotten; Mitch Cullin makes no attempt to disguise the horrors he writes about or to disguise his novel as a children's tale. Tideland is definitely a novel for adults, and Cullin gives the reader the awful truth straight and headlong.

That is the novel's strength but also its weakness. All too often Cullin seems to be bent on shocking the reader in any manner available to him, and the hopelessness of Jeliza-Rose's life is so obvious and overwhelming, the novel soon becomes unbearably depressing. Jeliza-Rose's optimism fails to convince; her situation is too impossible, and she is obviously far too disturbed and distorted to be taken seriously as a narrator. Which brings me to the biggest problem I had with the novel - even though I got past all the others, this kept bugging me. Cullin seems not entirely certain of the manner and style in which he narrates his story. The story is told in the past tense - in a way that hints at a long period of time passed between the event and the telling.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Martin T. Scott on May 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Both poetic and thrilling, the best thing about this novel in the texture: the language and visual imagery are both stunning. This is a wonderful take on a twisted childhood, and so it's no surpirise Terry Gilliam will direct the movie version: the surreal and dreamy misprision is right up his alley. One might quibble that the voice of the narrator in the novel would be beyond that of a child, but the payoff of the reading experience is probably worth the suspension of disbelief.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By KC on June 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Tideland seized my imagination from the first page, and I think most readers will follow Cullin's extraordinary conceptions with astonishment and delight. Told in the past tense, thus suggesting a good deal of time has passed before its telling, Jeliza-Rose's adventures among the mesquites are haunting, strange, and often beautiful. Her encounters with the odd pair of Dell and Dickens come at a welcome time, yet leads us down an even darker path of family secrets and hidden boxes of dynamite.
Considering Tideland came just months after Cullin's Branches and only a few months before his equally wonderful but different The Cosmology of Bing, one can only imagine what this very talented and singular storyteller has up his sleeve next. Until then, I highly recommend the curious world of Tideland, which is a work of so unusual a nature as to throw new light on Cullin's already brilliant career.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Misty Dyan on January 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not everyone will love this book, but those who do will love it to death. It is disturbing and uncomfortable yet sweet and beautiful. The movie is awesome too. amen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By kitrulz on November 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're interested in reading books that are strange and possibly disturbing then this might be for you. I saw the movie before I read the book, which I normally hate doing, but it didn't matter so much here. The movie was pretty crazy and did follow the book to an extent, but the book was definitely it's own creature- Compelling from beginning to end.
I found the story to be unique and horrifying, but with an element of fantasy that also made the main character's unfortunate circumstances seem easier to accept.
I really like this book and have recommended it to several of my friends. It's definitely not for everyone, though. Like, I wouldn't probably recommend it to my grandma.
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