To one reader at least, it comes as happy news that Hawkes is giving his recent style of mock-pornography a rest. Although the narrator of this long novel is one Sunny Deauville, the madame of a 1965-era brothel in Alaska called Gamelands, Hawkes' focus is on exploits not in bed but in nature. And not by Sunny at all but by her father, a Connecticut blue blood who'd moved wife and daughter to the wild of Juneau in 1929 and there had one fabulous adventure after another. Innocent and mythic, Sunny's father was called by everyone (including her) Uncle Jake; and Uncle Jake's feats are successive triumphs of courage, fortitude, patience, foolishness, and the comradeship of some good men: Sitka Charlie, the Indian; Frank Morley, the quiet right-hand man; Rex Ainsworth, the formal and faultless bush pilot. With their help, Uncle Jake always overcomes, whether he's rescuing stranded settlers, killing gigantic bears, being stranded on a rock face, or discovering a magical totem pole. And why he risks life and limb repeatedly seems--the novel's most endearing theme--to be so that he can tell about it later. Uncle Jake is a born novelist, a painstaking detailer, a nonpareil embroiderer. Hawkes has fun with this: nothing keeps Uncle Jake quiet for long. His stories, of course, become the real adventures: if and how he manages to tell them. . .which he always does, and well. The trouble is: you keep waiting for this novel, Hawkes' novel, to begin--and it never does. Uncle Jake spins tall tales agreeably enough; there's a tiny bit of erotic interlude between the flashbacks, thanks to Sunny's business (thankfully kept to a minimum: Hawkes is a dull sex writer); but the idea of the book--story as experience (see John Barth's Chimera: the same basic idea) is uppermost, its water wheel that keeps it turning and turning. . . A good idea, with some vivid narration of the sort that Hawkes can do so well by now--but it adds up to next to nothing.