Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

2013 reread #4

I honestly didn't know what was going to happen when I reread this book. It was a mind-blowing experience for me in college when I read this the first time, spawning an utter love for Tom Robbins as an author. Of course, at the time I smoked Camel Lights and a majority of this book happens thanks to a pack of cigarettes, so there was an immediate common factor that didn't exist this time around. This book was also the first modern, philosophical book I'd ever read. I read Robbins first, Vonnegut second.

So, this time around, the insane ramblings of an extremely intelligent author hit me in a different but still profound way. My love of this book hasn't changed in the last decade. Instead of it being all about existential thought and philosophizing though the book was about love. At the heart of this novel, full of dynamite, blackberries, and pyramids, are two people trying to figure out how to make love stay. Isn't that a universal theme we all can relate to? In the midst of saving the planet and too much solitary confinement, Princess Leigh-Cheri and Bernard Mickey Wrangle fall in love. It's a beauty and the beast tale only the beauty is a disposed princess and the beast is a terrorist who likes to blow things up rather than people. Their love is presided over by the moon and an unopened pack of Camel cigarettes.

They fall in love but in the confusion of being in love for the first time they get a lot of things wrong, misinterpret a lot and take the most roundabout route possible to finally admitting they have a love that can work. They may be a little unconventional, but their love story is universal and the questions they raise about love (forget Argon, red-head folk tales, and the profundity of cigarette packs) are worth thinking about.

I love the way Robbins writes and I love the stories that he decides to tell. They're all strange and off-beat, clouded with a lot of speculation and sideways tangents, but he has this special way of telling you a story while getting you to really think. His books aren't just an escape, they're an exercise in creative thought. You don't question the absurd reality of his story, but rather begin forming your own opinions on the major questions in life - like how do you make love stay?

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