Gone for Good

Mark Childress, Author
Mark Childress, Author Alfred A. Knopf $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-375-40021-6
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-345-41453-3
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A disappointing allegory from a proven talent about wealth, fame and wisdom, Childress's fifth novel (after Crazy in Alabama) begins with some effective hooks but bogs down in silly subplots. Atop the pop charts in 1972, Ben ""Superman"" Willis strays while flying himself to a concert and crash-lands on a tropical island peopled by celebrities presumed dead, where he lives out everyone's usual fantasies with them. He tires of the seclusion, however, and tries to escape, but ""the Magician"" who owns the island (a famous billionaire identified in the end) thwarts his efforts. When the Magician ruins the island's charm with his luxury hotel project, Superman organizes the locals to fight but eventually stands alone using the trite Castaneda-like wisdom and magic that the locals teach him. Eventually, Superman's son, Ben Junior, tracks him to the island, overcoming predictable trials. Superman triumphs over the Magician and returns to work things out with former wife and son--and to give that long-postponed concert, letting Junior sing the anthem ""Superman's Revenge."" But the salvation that comes from rejecting wealth and fame for simple pleasures feels hollow in a story that makes disbelief so hard to suspend--and gives so little reason to suspend it. (June)
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