There’s a strong strain of feminism in the book. The female characters seem fuller and more acute than the male.
Absolutely, on both counts. I do think that the stories of the women characters are the heart of the book. And in a roundabout and oblique way, I think of this book as very much a tribute to feminism. Certainly when I‘m talking specifically about the suffrage movement, in Lovey’s chapter. It‘s transposed back 60 or 70 years, but one thing I had very much on my mind when I was writing that was the way the Ann Coulters of this world sneer at ’70s feminism, when if it hadn‘t been for all those “awful women” that she and Phyllis Schlafly can’t stand, they‘d never have the kind of clout or influence that they do. Thinking about how that hasn’t been done justice made me think about how much the fight to win women the vote -- which is just a wonderful story -- has been utterly forgotten, too, and if it comes up at all it‘s usually treated in ridiculous terms. And it is an extraordinary story. Alice Paul, who gets mentioned in that chapter, and was quite real, was the head of the National Women’s Party who led the last demonstrations that did finally win women the vote; she‘s one of my great heroes, and her name probably isn’t known to one in a hundred thousand Americans.
One last related question: Ginger or Mary Ann?
I should have seen that coming, shouldn‘t I? One of the little things the book is saying is that’s kind of a false choice. I will say that in terms of my versions of those characters, Mary Ann is my absolute favorite. On the other hand, both my editor and agent say that Ginger‘s chapter is their favorite. But I suspect that has a little bit to do with their feelings for Tina Louise, not anything in my writing.
Tom Carson will read from Gilligan’s Wake at Skylight Books on Friday, January 17, at 7:30 p.m. and at Book Soup on Sunday, January 19, at 6 p.m.