Friday, November 24, 2006

Jitterbug Perfume - Tom Robbins

The role of the humble beet in humanity's pursuit of eternal life is not a common subject in modern literature - but then again, neither is the matter of hitchhiking cowgirls with enormous thumbs, and Robbins did pretty well with that one. The beet here takes the place of the thumb as the prosaic object in a poetical world, and frankly does a much better job of it. Beets we can relate to. Also flung into the mix we have perfume galore, the rise of Christianity, the decline of the god Pan, tips on how to avoid death (and what happens when you don't), some nymphs, some monks, and a swarm of bees; the settings range from ancient Arcadia to the Himalayas, from mediaeval Paris to modern New Orleans...

As with Only Cowgirls Get The Blues, Robbins's plot comes a distant second to his style - I would try to give a brief idea of the story, but, divorced from the prose, it looks rather silly. Mostly it alternates between the distant past, where King Alobar is seeking to avoid the inconvenience of death along with his incense-dealing wife Kudra, and the present, where three perfumiers are trying to replicate the glorious smell from a mysterious old perfume bottle embossed with a picture of Pan. From time to time, people talk about beetroot.

I know, I'm not selling it well, but if you've read any of Robbins's other work you don't need me to tell you what a joy his writing is. If you haven't, then this is as good a place to start as any. Its glorious insistence on simply enjoying life makes this hard to read without a smile, and even though the plot's pretty weird, you don't really care. There are fewer vaginas in this one, too.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are fewer vaginas in this one, too."

Best. Promotional. Sentence. Ever.


3:34 pm  

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