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Gilligan's Wake

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  193 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
A kaleidoscopic novel about our last American century

A skipper plies the waters of the South Pacific, running ammunition and passing the time with navy buddies McHale and Jack Kennedy, remembering the sweet caress of Screw-Me Susie. A New York millionaire reunites with his prep school classmate Alger Hiss, and journeys to an unusual downtown cafe to meet a bearded friend.
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 4th 2003 by Picador (first published January 15th 2002)
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252nd out of 298 books — 457 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 498)
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MJ Nicholls
Oct 07, 2013 MJ Nicholls marked it as dropped
First-rate wordplay and outstanding mindbendery in evidence, but narratively nothing particularly interesting past the p68 point. Strained pastiche, overly long surreal dream sequences, a Pynchonian tedium for neolonames-as-characters that disappear when the sentence ends, and an absence of any tangible through-plot bogs down one’s pleasure. Too much reliance on unfunny dialogue and bland satire also kissed this reader goodbye. Cover is one of the ugliest around too. But Carson can work words: n ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Feb 04, 2013 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: after-joyce
This is the book you've been looking for.
Read it today.
It's called "Gilligan."
It's called "Wake."
Do you really need more?
It'll be the best US$0.01+shipping you will ever be able to spend.
James Murphy
Mar 23, 2010 James Murphy rated it it was amazing
Like its namesake, Finnegans Wake, this is a language novel. It's funny and it's brilliant. Besides the obvious title allusion to Joyce, it may also be dream. The frantic energy of it reminds one of Pynchon. Portions of it also remind me of Gilbert Sorrentino, especially those parts suggesting humble background aspiring to be learned and intellectual, a human trait he was a master of. In an afterword Carson pays a debt to Calder Willingham. He's a favorite of mine, but I didn't detect him here. ...more
Hank Stuever
Sep 26, 2011 Hank Stuever rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite novels from the 2000s. It's a complex and imaginatively hallucinatory retelling of modern history through the prism of the seven castaways on "Gilligan's Island." That's right: Joyceian and Sherwood Schwartzian. Not at all hokey or gimmicky, but just so masterfully executed. I get it down every now and then and enjoy a chapter or two, admiringly.
Scott Hammack
Sep 20, 2007 Scott Hammack rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in twentieth-century American culture and history
I knew I had to read this from the moment I heard what it was: a retelling of "Gilligan's Island" written from the point of view of each of the castaways, co-existing and interacting with many other fictional and historical characters of the time period. That kind of thing is right up my alley, so I had to check it out at least for the sheer weirdness factor. But as it turned out, there was a lot more to it than I expected.

When I call it a "retelling of 'Gilligan's Island,'" that's a little bit
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Jean
Mar 02, 2008 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jean by: my brother
Sit right back and you'll hear a tale...of a campy send-up of James Joyce's "Finnigan's Wake". More than a three-hour tour, this is a tour-de-force through American history (sort of) and an entangled story of what the Gilligan's Island characters might have been up to before they started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship.
[Name Redacted]
Sep 23, 2011 [Name Redacted] marked it as to-read
WHY DID NO-ONE TELL ME THAT THIS NOVEL EXISTED?!? It's a parody of Joyce's novel AND a send-up of American television!
Patrick Di Justo
Jun 27, 2015 Patrick Di Justo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
Not so much a novel, as a collection of short character studies of six people, as told by the seventh.

The first character is a middle aged sailor. A veteran of WWII, where he commanded a PT boat in the South Pacific with a rich kid from Boston named Jack and a schemer named McHale, he eventually starts his own business running three hour carter cruises in Hawaii.

The second character is an upper class American twit, incredibly rich, and a good friend of Tom Buchanan and Alger Hiss.

The third char
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Cat.
Nov 17, 2013 Cat. rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, history, humor
Hello James Joyce-influence! There is something to be said for being the same age as the author of something like this book, because, even if you don't get the plot completely nailed down, you at least understand the allusions and puns. For example, from the first section:
Rats were patrolling Room 222, gunsmoke made the sea be yesterday, oh Dr. Kildare F. Troop I'm on to you: I know what the Mayo Clinic is.... When dawn wells up in the sky, she knots me together. Then we'd sit around in the Clea
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James
Dec 25, 2007 James rated it really liked it
this book is a mash-up history of the 20th century, loaded with pop-culture references as well as those political and not-so-pop, all wrapped up in the neurosis of a young man.

each chapter re-tells the story of one of the castaways from gilligan's island, each time within the context of an era and filled with forrest-gumpian entanglements. the skipper runs a pt boat alongside mchale and jack kennedy. lovey has a drug-fueled flapper friendship (and more) with daisy buchanan, thurston recommends
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Tina
Mar 03, 2008 Tina rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This was a really interesting book. To be honest, it's not something I would have picked up or stayed with if it hadn't been recommended to me by Scott, b/c I really hated the first chapter: it's very self-consciously clever, and it bombards you with puns and pop culture references and literary allusions and crazy-person talk, which made me really exasperated. It was like everything I hate about James Joyce and writers who want to be him.

But it's a short first chapter, and the second chapter hoo
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Jim
Mar 15, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This ambitious and very funny novel is not remotely a linear narrative. Rather, as its title suggests, it moves with the spirit of James Joyce and presents a series of seemingly jumbled narratives riffing lightly on characters from the TV series GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. In a style that has been compared with that of Thomas Pynchon, Tom Carson's book is not a particularly easy read, but neither is it especially difficult. It does require, and it plays like a jazz band on, an awareness of popular cultur ...more
Lori
Sep 30, 2015 Lori rated it really liked it
From what I recall, this was quite a head trip. Carson takes the characters from Gilligan's Island and plugs them in as general representations of the American post-war psyche. Gilligan exploring the sub-culture...the booze and morphine addled Howells losing their grip and seeing their world become less relevant...star struck Ginger looking for her 15 minutes of fame...Mary Ann attempting to lose her innocence...the Skipper recalling his glory days and the Professor-as-Smoking-Man on the X-Files ...more
Stefanie
May 16, 2015 Stefanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
This book was amazing. I gave it 5 stars, and would have given it 6 if I could. To properly enjoy it, you must enjoy postmodernism and be amused by wordplay. If you meet those requirements, you're in for the trip of a lifetime. The story takes the main characters of Gilligan's Island - in the order from the theme song - and provides them with back stories of their own, rife with cameos from prominent 20th century figures, real and imaginary alike. Tough it out through the first, short chapter. T ...more
Jenni Wieland
Feb 06, 2008 Jenni Wieland rated it liked it
This book had my head spinning. I didn't know what to expect, and the premise seems sort of cheesy, but I consider it a good find. The narration takes us into the heads, hearts and incredibly sordid pasts of the 7 castaways of Gilligan's Island, and with it, into the head, heart and sordid history of 20th Century America.
No, it doesn't tell us how they all ended up on the island-- it tells us how they ended up at some of the most significant, often top secret, events in our recent history... an
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Daniel Gualtieri
Dec 15, 2014 Daniel Gualtieri rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I no longer remember what I expected this book to be when I began reading it. I stumbled across it online and thought the concept ("an exploration of the 20th century from the perspective of each character on Gilligan's Island") sounded interesting, and I suppose that description is about as adequate as can be expected from just a few words, but there is so much more going on here.

This book is DEFINITELY not for everyone... I love mind-screwy postmodern novels like this, as well as pop culture
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R.d. Mumma
Sep 26, 2014 R.d. Mumma rated it it was amazing
I was just reminded of this novel by a friend who posted that today (9/26/2014) is the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast episode of 'Gilligan's Island,' so I dug into Amazon where I see that my 1/31/2003 review of 'Gilligan's Wake' - probably the first Amazon review I wrote - was featured. Here it is:

(Five Stars) Joycean ride for nondubliners

I just finished this guilty pleasure on the train to work this morning. I read and enjoy a lot of books, but I never feel the need to comment immediat
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erica
Dec 13, 2007 erica rated it it was amazing
A witty, imaginative, salacious and oftentimes hysterical re-telling of American History and pop culture vis-a-vis seven vastly different and intriguing characters whose lives all collide at different points in time. Gilligan's Wake is an indulgence to be savored. In a word, this book is fun through and through.
Jeffrey Cavanaugh
Apr 24, 2012 Jeffrey Cavanaugh rated it liked it
A sometimes funny, sometimes surreal mishmash of 20th-century America as told through the backstory of TV's original Lost castaways. If you combine one part crappy sitcom with one part Canterbury Tales with many parts pot then Gilligan's Wake would be the result.
John Treat
Dec 15, 2014 John Treat rated it really liked it
Absolutely hilarious, the product of a wonderfully twisted intellect. Some of the chapters go on too long, but Lovey Howell's saga is worth it all. Don't expect anyone born after 1960 to get any of it, though.
Jean-Pierre Vidrine
Genre-defying. Mind-bending. Modifiers are not adequate to describe the experience of reading this book. This is so much more than an offbeat tale making unlikely use of characters from an old sitcom. This is an indictment of America's crimes against the world and itself. It's a bitter pill to swallow, and it being delivered through these characters does nothing to sugarcoat it.
Even the above statement is not enough to praise this novel. The final chapter and the author's afterword (I almost ty
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Michael Grasso
Jul 13, 2015 Michael Grasso rated it really liked it
It's going on the Weird California shelf, that's for sure, but what this book REALLY would've been perfect for is my Genius game about television.
Christy
I rated and reviewed this book on LibraryThing: http://www.librarything.com/profile_r...
Alaina Patterson
Aug 08, 2013 Alaina Patterson rated it really liked it
I guess the last thing I can say about Gilligan’s Wake is that, underneath all the trappings of putting beloved characters into historical situations [...], the book acts as a goodbye to the twentieth century and a call-to-arms on making sure the twenty-first continues to move us forward into brighter and greener pastures.

For the full review (and reassurance that it's not all about Gilligan's Island as you may think), follow the link to That's What She Read.
Bob
Jul 21, 2008 Bob rated it really liked it
Combining the need for more backstory on those who were lost on four hour tour with a historical/hysterical context that was enlightening and humorous. Especially the Professor who's response to everyone is to attempt to have sex or Mrs. Howell and her take on the Suffragettes.
William Akin
Feb 10, 2013 William Akin rated it it was amazing
i'm going out on a limb and saying this is might now be my favorite book ever. Poetic, bawdy, brilliant, experimental, difficult, rewarding, and ever so heartbreaking. Goddamn, Carson. Goddamn.
Eliana
Sep 28, 2008 Eliana marked it as to-read
I am liking this book but it takes too much concentration, ala CATCH 22 to get it. so it will have to wait till a larger brain phase of my life.
Tracy
Jun 28, 2009 Tracy marked it as to-read
Tony the Bartender/GM recommended this to me. It's always a good idea to listen to your bartender as he always takes time to listen to me!
Joe
May 24, 2008 Joe rated it it was amazing
It had me at "Hello"

Or that chapter about Professor X's adventures thru the 20th century. One or the other.
Kelly
Sep 03, 2011 Kelly marked it as to-read
Shelves: wishlist
I'm waiting to see a few more reviews about this book. Sounds intriguing, not sure if I'd like it or hate it.
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Tom Carson is the author of Gilligan’s Wake, a New York Times Notable Book of The Year for 2003. Currently GQ’s “The Critic,” he won two National Magazine Awards for criticism as Esquire magazine’s “Screen” columnist and has been nominated two more times since then. He also won the CRMA criticism award for his book reviews in Los Angeles magazine.

Before that, he wrote extensively about pop culture
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