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Gilligan's Wake: A Novel
by Tom Carson
ISBN 031229123X / 9780312291235 / 0-312-29123-X
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In Gilligan's Wake, Esquire columnist Tom Carson takes a shaky premise---20th-century American culture as seen through the characters of Gilligan's Island--and turns it into a feverishly imaginative jigsaw puzzle of a book. Each castaway has been given a bizarre, interconnected history, which they recount in the book's seven chapters.
This fateful trip begins with Gilligan, who tells of his days writing beat poetry with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, only to awaken in a Minnesota mental institution. The Skipper relates how he spent World War II drinking cheap beer on PT boats with McHale and Jack Kennedy, who had "a grin like autumn leaves with a pack of Chiclets in the middle." In later stories, "beaming, imbecilic" Thurston recommends former chum Alger Hiss for his first government job, while spoiled Lovey has a morphine-inspired fling with The Great Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan. Brilliant bombshell Ginger ("My hips could have started the Timex folks weeping") lands a B-movie career in L.A., and a memorable night at Frank Sinatra's house. In between building the A-bomb, inventing the CIA, and generally dictating world events with his pals Roy Cohn and "Hank" Kissinger, the Professor bestows sexual favors on invalids. Finally, cheerful Mary-Ann, "the personification of America," leaves her Kansas home to attend the Sorbonne, where she meets a handsome Frenchman and discovers she is unable to lose her virginity.
Along the way, Gilligan's Wake's elusive meta-narrator reveals himself through clues and exposition in his hallucinatory retelling of American history. Carson propels the novel with astute cultural criticisms and energetic prose, including rapid-fire wordplay and narrative echoes that recall Thomas Pynchon. The result is a multifaceted, uncertain, and dazzling voyage. --Ross Doll [via]