The Austin Chronicle


By Clay Smith, March 16, 2001, Books

A Match Made in Hollywood

One of the more reassuring mysteries of the universe is that a young writer who concocts atmospheric, often bizarre, meandering works of fiction set in rural Texas could find someone -- anyone -- in Hollywood who would be quite eager to make a movie out of this material. Of the books that Mitch Cullin has written, his first novel, Whompyjawed, the endearing, heavily plotted coming-of-age story of a high school football star of Claude, Texas, would seem to lend itself most readily to Hollywood filmmaking. But producer William Finnegan (Reality Bites, The Fabulous Baker Boys) optioned Cullin's Branches, a novel in verse form in which a vicious old sheriff in West Texas stuffs his stepson down a well and pretends that he doesn't hear him crying for help. That screen adaptation seems to be languishing since Burt Kennedy (The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory, Where the Hell's That Gold?!!?), who was writing the screenplay, died on Feb. 15. Meanwhile, Cullin's third novel Tideland, about a young girl named Jeliza-Rose who is deserted on a farmhouse north of Salado (so she makes friends with her Barbie dolls and a ghost), has been optioned by Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). Cullin, who lives in Tucson but grew up in the tiny West Texas town of Guthrie, sent him Tideland as a kind of fan letter. "Dear Mitch Cullin," Gilliam responded after several months, "I have just finished reading it and it is, as they don't say anywhere on the dust jacket, fucking wonderful. … It is … beautifully written, perfectly paced, sad, magical, funny, excellent wordworking. … Are the Hollywood moguls queuing up, brandishing piles of lolly?" -- they were not since Cullin says he had only sent it to Gilliam and hadn't really intended it to be optioned -- "If they are, they probably want to hand it over to Ron Howard to make it nice and Grinchy. Let me know. Yours in dreamland, Terry Gilliam." "I never have a good feeling about options," Cullin says, "and when I hear about friends whose books have been optioned I always think the money's nice for the writer. For some reason, I get a really good feeling about this one. Probably because Jeremy Thomas (Naked Lunch, Crash, The Last Emperor) is one of these producers who seems to get things done."

Shooting Austin Music

In August 1970, Armadillo World Headquarters owner Eddie Wilson received a letter that plainly stated, "Hello, my name is Burton Wilson, and I am a free lance photographer. I take a lot of photographs of musicians, and if you will be so kind as to allow me access to Armadillo World Headquarters, I will make available to you copies of any pictures I shoot." The plea worked, and Wilson's collection of photos of musicians like Mance Lipscomb, Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead, Angela Strehli, and Fats Domino will be published in April as The Austin Music Scene Through the Lens of Burton Wilson, 1965-1994 (co-author Jack Ortman). But fans of Wilson's work can purchase one of the 200 copies published in an early print run that will be available during Wilson and Ortman's appearance at the Austin Record Convention at Palmer Auditorium this weekend, March 17-18. They'll be signing copies from noon until 2pm both days.

Poetry Slam Moving

The Austin Poetry Slam has outgrown Gaby & Mo's, so it's moving to the Mercury (214 E. Sixth) above Jazz Restaurant every Wednesday beginning at 7:30. $3 cover or $5 for couples.

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