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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.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-29123-X
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2002


FictionTREASURE ISLAND!!! by Sara Levine
by Sara Levine