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UnderSurface Hardcover – September 1, 2002
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Here is my main problem with the book. Many novels, as does this one, start in the present and then flashback to the past to see how the protagonist actually made it to this current place. However, in order for this to work, a reader's attention must be grabbed at the very beginning to make us truly wonder and care about how things became the way they are. In this book, the present (as it starts out) is very bland and uneventful. The past, as we find out later, actually had some good twists and turns. However, by the time we get to the previous events, we really don't care about the main character or his predicament.
While some of the descriptions are quite good and vivid, this short book will leave most readers completely unmoved.