Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gilligan’s Wake: A Novel, by Tom Carson

Gilligan’s Wake: A Novel, by Tom Carson

This is an amazing book, a true pop-culture smorgasbord. Seven vignettes make up this novel, one for each castaway from Gilligan’s Island. However, the characters aren’t as we remember or expect. We find Gilligan committed to the Cleaver Ward (across the hall from the Burt Ward) of a psychiatric hospital, insisting that he is Maynard G. Krebs and attended to by Dr. Kildare F. Troop. The Skipper describes his time serving in the U.S. Navy with McHale, JFK, and Nixon. Thurston Howell is a naive millionaire that gets mixed up with Alger Hiss and Communist spies; his wife Lovey a morphine-addicted lesbian paired with Daisy Buchanan. That’s when things start to get weird!

Ginger’s story (fittingly titled Hello Nurse) tells how she got into bondage porn with Bettie Page before getting thrown out of Sinatra’s house after a post-coital insult to Sammy Davis, Jr. The Professor is a narcissistic pedophile that was a part of the Manhattan Project, founded a secret society with Roy Cohn and Henry Kissinger that purposefully instigated schemes such as the Suez Canal crisis and the homeless problem, and briefly turns into Godzilla. Mary-Ann dates Jean-Luc Goddard in Paris and discovers she is not only doomed to be a perpetual virgin, but a fictional character to boot.

Subtle and not-so-subtle nods to the television series abound, such as each tale having a character or artifact named with an anagram of Gilligan, or working the word “castaway” and “minnow” into several passages. A man named John Gilbert Egan also figures into each story; at the close of the novel Mary-Ann’s imaginary roommate explains that Egan is actually the author and causes a breach in the fourth wall explaining to us, the readers, how the individual tales all knit together.

Surreal, clever, and inventive, this book was utterly fantastic.

First Sentence:
Skippertoo and get me home, I mean if you really want to hear about it.

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