Seventies folk-rock icon Ben "Superman" Willis may be at the height of his fame, but he's not having very much fun. The touring lifestyle has lost its luster, his marriage to a former Miss Southwest Louisiana is on the rocks, and his only real pleasure comes from flying his Beechcraft Baron twin-engine plane 9,000 feet above all his earthly obligations. One day, Superman's plane goes missing, thanks to a storm, a faulty compass, and some very strong dope. To the rest of the world, it's as if he has disappeared into thin air. In reality, he crash lands on a lush tropical island, where the first person he sees bears an uncanny resemblance to Marilyn Monroe. As he recuperates, he meets various other castaways: an elderly aviatrix who may or may not be Amelia Earhart; her cross-dressing putative copilot; elegant Princess Annie; and a barrel-chested barbecue chef named Jimmy--Hoffa, that is. Just like these famously dead and disappeared celebrities, Superman has found the one place that could fulfill his own secret wish: to fly so far away from his own life that he registers on no one's radar at all.
The author of wacky Southern bildungsromans such as Tender and Crazy in Alabama, Mark Childress branches out into new imaginative territory with Gone for Good, a novel with an all-star cast and a sprawling, slightly ramshackle plot. Superman's presence on the island unleashes some mighty odd goings-on, involving a power-mad islander the locals call El Mago, armies of mystically inclined monkeys, and a wizened native sage who produces gnomic utterances such as "Sometime is no why. Sometime just is." At times it seems that Childress's hero has escaped one adolescent male fantasy (rock & roll stardom) only to fall into the arms of another: he gains magical powers, makes love to Marilyn Monroe, and engages in some highly entertaining monkey-wrenching against the island's would-be developers. Plus, everybody keeps telling him how important he is. No matter: like Superman himself, the book has a shaggy-dog charm, and in the end, the author produces some moving truths about fame, love, and what it truly means to disappear. --Mary Park
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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