Gilligan's Wake

Gilligan's Wake

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by Tom Carson

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In this kaleidoscopic fantasy, seven uniquely familiar narrators recall the last American century. An old salt shares his memories of fellow PT-boat skipper Jack Kennedy. A New York millionaire gets Alger Hiss a job. An ex-debutante reveals her Jazz Age friendship with The Great Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan. A Dixie redhead dishes up the inside scoop on the Rat Pack. A

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In this kaleidoscopic fantasy, seven uniquely familiar narrators recall the last American century. An old salt shares his memories of fellow PT-boat skipper Jack Kennedy. A New York millionaire gets Alger Hiss a job. An ex-debutante reveals her Jazz Age friendship with The Great Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan. A Dixie redhead dishes up the inside scoop on the Rat Pack. A scientist confesses to his part in every event from Los Alamos to Watergate. And Mary-Ann Kilroy of Russell, Kansas finds romance in Paris before learning why she'll never leave the island. But behind them lurks the man who keeps insisting that his name isn't Gilligan--and who's inventing this brilliant, poignant comic collage for reasons of his own.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“[A] mad-real mind reel of a novel...The resulting playback is intoxicating, ecstatically inventive and...oddly touching.” —The Washington Post Book World

“An energetic pastiche...Wow. In their wacky conflation of fact and fiction--and their happy confusion of high and low brows--the septet of stories amount to [a] carnivalesque daydream....Just sit right back and you'll hear a playfully paranoid history of the twentieth century.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Read[s] like a crossword puzzle based on the album cover photo of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'...Vivid and inventive...Utimately, all that comic energy deepens into a genuinely moving elegy.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Publishers Weekly
Carson, Esquire magazine's TV critic, is to television what Pauline Kael was to film: a consistently intelligent voice brought to bear on a medium in sore need of astute criticism. Logically enough, his first novel has an audacious TV-based premise: in seven separate stories, characters describe their experiences-as scientist, naval officer, actress, student, beatnik and rich husband and wife-in postwar America. The twist is that there's something oddly familiar about these seven-they're the future characters of Gilligan's Island. Gilligan is a patient committed to a psychiatric hospital (the Cleaver Ward, specifically); the Skipper hangs out with fellow mariners John F. Kennedy and McHale on a Pacific island. Millionaire Thurston Howell turns out to have been an old classmate of Alger Hiss; his wife, Lovey, is a confidante of The Great Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan. Ginger leaves her native Alabama for Hollywood and has a night to remember with Sammy Davis Jr., while wholesome Kansas girl Mary-Ann studies philosophy at the Sorbonne and has a Breathless-type affair with boyfriend Jean-Luc. The Professor, meanwhile, is busy assisting his colleague Robert Oppenheimer. Eventually, all find themselves stranded on the island and realize that "we must be fictional characters of some sort." Along the way, Carson skewers Communist paranoia, the fad for electroshock therapy, the Rat Pack, Richard Nixon and other familiar absurdities-political, literary and pop cultural-of the era. "Nothing odd will do long," Dr. Johnson once said, and this is especially true of parody. Carson's clever gags try readers' patience, and some of the pieces are a bit thin. Still, the pastiche is surprisingly smart and entertaining; it offers some genuinely inspired sketches for those who know their television-and their Cold War history. (Jan.) Forecasts: This book is mostly for those weaned on 1960s and '70s sitcoms, but Gen-Xers and cultural studies types also will get a kick out of it. Expect lots of review coverage; Carson's book will inspire think pieces in hip higher-brow magazines. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Carson, Esquire's award-winning screen columnist, uses characters from the Gilligan's Island TV series to explore 20th-century political, literary, and pop culture. Each character is allotted a chapter, starting with Gilligan, who thinks that he's hanging out with Lawrence Ferlinghetti in San Francisco when, in fact, he is in a mental institution in Minnesota. The skipper meets John Kennedy in the Pacific, Thurston Howell III helps Alger Hiss get a government job, and Howell's wife uses opium with Gatsby's love, Daisy Buchanan. Then there's Ginger, who explores Hollywood's low-budget film industry, as the Professor works with Oppenheimer on the bomb and Mary Anne moves from Kansas to Paris and has an affair with filmmaker Jean-Luc something or other. Other characters reappear, and both real and fictional characters have cameos, creating a collage that reflects the themes of recent American history. In lesser hands, this could have become an annoying gimmick, but Carson focuses on the main characters, making them believable and offering intriguing alternative realities. Watching reruns of Gilligan's Island will never be the same again. Highly recommended.-Josh Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Carson follows in James Joyce's footsteps in Finnegans Wake in the structural freedom of his novel, but without going too far in that direction. Even in the first chapter, in which he comes closest to stream-of-consciousness writing, readers can clearly imagine the scenes he creates. The book consists of seven autonomous chapters, each begun as a sort of back story for one of the seven castaways on Gilligan's Island. Yet each story works with the others on a number of different levels, taking up different strands of the book embodied in them all. The fact that the writing is not obviously straightforward merely increases the pleasure, and one's active involvement in reading is rewarded through a feeling similar to that of being let in on a private joke. The only caveat is that Carson at times imposes order on a story that otherwise draws its strength from its lack of structure. A quirky and engrossing read.-Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An excruciating postmodern fantasy retells the story of Gilligan's Island à la James Joyce.

Maybe you really love Finnegan's Wake. Or maybe you're a Gilligan's Island addict. It's possible, however unlikely, that you're a fan of both-in which case this is the story for you. Each character from that old show gets his own chapter, arranged in the order of the theme song ("there's Gilligan, / the skipper, too, / the millionaire / and his wife . . ."). So, instead of stately, plump Buck Mulligan, we begin with Li'l Buddy himself, a beatnik hipster strung out in a Mayo Clinic psychiatric ward where he reminisces about happier days in Frisco with his pals Ferlinghetti and Holden Caulfield. The skipper goes on about his wartime duty as a PT boat captain in WWII, when he hung out with the likes of JFK and McHale (i.e., Ernest Borgnine). Thurston Howell III turns out to have been at the center of an espionage ring involving his old Groton classmate Alger Hiss (who didn't really go to Groton, but never mind), while his wife (Lovie) had an unusual relationship with Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby during the 1920s. Ginger, the movie star, reveals how she broke into pictures by providing solace to members of the Rat Pack (and a certain Massachusetts senator) in the mid-1950s, while the Professor ruminates on his days at Los Alamos with Oppenheimer and Teller-professional relationships that made his life rather complicated during the McCarthy years (just as Ginger's ministrations to Sammy Davis Jr. broke her southern mama's heart). Finally, Mary-Ann, the most boring of the castaways, offers a long and convoluted account of her years in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne and dating Jean-Luc Godard.

Pretentious, dull, self-indulgent, and about as Joycean as an old rerun of Gilligan's Island.

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Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.73(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Tom Carson, Esquire's National Magazine Award-winning "Screen" columnist, has written on pop culture and politics for the Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Rolling Stone, among others. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.

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