Ya might know I would miss a couple of days right on the magic number 23! fnord! Like the joke Uma told in Pulp Fiction, I must Ketchup!
These pages cover Sissy's palm-reading experience mostly from Madame Zoe's point of view. The contrasts between the trailor in which Zoe resides and the spiritual realm of which she is supposed to be a frequenter are hilarious. But Madame Zoe, thanks to some knowledge of psychology and some dumb luck does make some pretty good predictions. She predicts Sissy's marriage to Julian and impregnation by the Chink. She notices Sissy's latent attraction to other women too. Once again Robbins does his own prognostication with story details.
Jan 27, 2007
Ya might know I would miss a couple of days right on the magic number 23! fnord! Like the joke Uma told in Pulp Fiction, I must Ketchup!
Jan 24, 2007
Rocky Mountain News
By Jenny Shank, Special To The News
May 16, 2003
Tom Robbins answers the phone in his New York City hotel room with the deadpan greeting: "Intensive care."
When asked if the speaker is Tom Robbins, he replies, "You know, I haven't looked in the mirror yet. But I'm afraid that you've got the right party. I tell you, I am about one scalpel away from a frontal lobotomy, so take it easy on me. If you were to see me this morning, you would think I was just one enormous liver with two red eyeballs sticking out of it."
Robbins' modus operandi has always been to disarm readers with humor and outrageous metaphors, then engage them in discussions of life, philosophy and language. Judging by the throng of passionate followers who flock to his readings and snap up copies of his books, he is doing something right.
Robbins, who comes to Denver on Monday to promote his eighth novel, Villa Incognito, won't disappoint fans who have come to expect a wild ride from his books. The new novel, set in Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and the United States, concerns Tanuki, a lusty, sake-swilling animal from Japanese folklore, the women who love him, and a trio of Americans who went missing in action in Vietnam and instead of returning home, set up a jungle utopia that can be reached only via a dodgy high-wire crossing.
Exploration of ideas
Robbins is up to his old linguistic tricks in Villa Incognito, continuing on his joyful quest to put two words together in ways that they have never been put together before.
"The very best part of writing for me is to create situations in which language can happen," he says.
Robbins' characters and plots are often so outlandish that it can seem as though he conjured them from the ether, but when he explains the elements of Villa Incognito, it becomes clear that they are logical explorations of his ideas and experiences. To account for his interest in Tanuki, Robbins tells a story that stretches many decades.
"When I first moved to Seattle in 1962, I was right out of college, I had no money, and I found a little Japanese restaurant called Tenkatsu that served a substantial bowl of miso soup for 25 cents. So I took my lunches and my dinners there, and I could attend to my gastronomical and nutritional needs for 50 cents a day.
"And in the window of that restaurant was a statue of an animal up on his hind legs. I thought it was a bear, but it had this enormous scrotum, which I thought was rather odd. I assumed it was some kind of virility symbol or totem, but what was it doing in the window of a restaurant? I was too shy to ask about it. It became a familiar figure to me, but I didn't really know anything about it.
"So now we fast-forward to 1987, and my financial situation has changed, along with many other things, and I've purchased a condo down on the waterfront in Seattle. I was in Los Angeles shopping for furniture, and I went into a Japanese antique store and there was this figure."
Robbins bought the statue that reminded him of the one that stood in the Japanese restaurant.
"I was overcome with this wave of nostalgia for Tenkatsu, and how comforting that place was for me, and how it got me through those lean years."
Eventually, a guest at Robbins' house recognized the statue as Tanuki, from Japanese folklore.
"Tanuki is a kind of trickster figure," Robbins explains. "The primary trickster figure is Kitsune, the fox" - who also makes an appearance in the novel - "and Tanuki is sort of the Jerry Lewis to his Dean Martin. The fox is the straight man - which I suppose is taking things to the extreme to call a trickster a straight man. But Tanuki is not the powerful figure that the fox is. What he represents to me, at least, is the liberated state of elevated innocence. He's all appetite, but in the way that a baby is.
"If you have a baby in the house, it's like having a Zen master on call 24 hours a day, because they're so pure."
The other elements of Villa Incognito were also percolating in Robbins' subconscious for many years.
"The most important phrase in the vocabulary of any creative artist is 'What if?' and back when the MIAs were in the news, I began asking myself the question, 'What if there were MIAs that had chosen to stay missing?'
"What would their motives have been for deciding not to come back? What sort of lives would they be leading? And is it possible that both their motives and their lives might be vastly different from what most people would assume?
"And then in this mysterious, complex way that writing fiction evolves, I started folding the MIA story into the Tanuki story."
Robbins is a patient, painstaking writer, and when he is working on a novel he sets a goal of two pages a day.
"You try not to leave a sentence until you think it's as good as you can make it, which is not a way that I necessarily recommend to anyone else to write. It's probably a ridiculous way to write, but it works for me."
Robbins' technique also demands patience from his fans, who usually have to wait four or more years between his novels. This technique, however, is responsible for the characteristic jumbles of subconscious influences in Robbins' novels.
"I'm primarily an intuitive writer. Which is not to say I don't think about what I'm going to write. I think about it 24 hours a day, practically, when I'm actually involved, embedded in a book. But I learned long ago - I've been doing this, well, actually I've been writing since I was 5 years old, and I've been writing novels for 30 years - so I have learned to trust my intuition.
"And I try not to keep too much of the plot or too many of the ideas in my conscious mind. I like to leave them to marinate down in the green ooze at the bottom of my brainpan and kind of squeeze them out, little by little, like toothpaste from a tube."
Robbins says his novels are "very carefully plotted, but not in advance. I can't imagine doing that."
"I was on a panel in October with John Irving," Robbins says, "and he announced to the audience that he could never begin a book unless he knew exactly how it was going to end. And I was astonished by that. Someone - I think it was (V.S.) Naipaul - said that if you know what is going to happen in advance, then the book is dead before you write it."
At 66, Robbins seems to be a contented man, grateful for his admiring readers and the attendant commercial success of his books, with few complaints about his career. He does allow, however, that he has "mixed feelings" about book tours.
"I get a lot of love when I'm out on tour. I just actually flew in from Albuquerque, and I was touched and honored and surprised by how many people came. About 500 people showed up for my reading there, and I was surprised by how many of them said that my books had touched their lives, and in many cases had changed their lives. And I never set out to do that. . . . So it really is a treat for me to get out and meet readers, to see who's reading my books, to make sure it isn't totally the lunatic fringe.
"But at the same time it is enormously tiring, even when I'm not in New York and out drinking red wine half the night. By the time I get to Denver, I will have turned into Casper, the Friendly Ghost. I'll just be an empty, dead sheet with a smile painted on it.
"But I still look forward to coming to Denver. My last book sold more copies in Denver than in any other city in the United States. There are good readers in Denver and you have a wonderful bookstore in the Tattered Cover."
Two characters in Villa Incognito move to Boulder at the end of the book so that one of them can attend the Naropa Institute, "and also I was kind of giving a little nod to the Denver area because they've been so good to me," Robbins says.
Still another Colorado connection in the story has to do with a song that Robbins interweaves throughout the novel, written by one of the characters. Robbins originally began writing this song at the request of Colorado jam band supreme The String Cheese Incident, which asked him to give them some lyrics.
"At that time I had only three verses, and they weren't as polished as those that actually ended up in the book. And they told me that they didn't think there was enough there."
The longer version of the song Meet Me In Cognito might tempt SCI, as it abides by the first jam band commandment: Never end a song when you can continue it.
And the meandering, self-reveling music of a jam band would be the perfect accompaniment to Robbins' unrestrained and linguistically nubile prose.
Jenny Shank's short stories have appeared in The Michigan Quarterly Review, CutBank and other publications, and one was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Denver.
Copyright 2005, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.
Jan 23, 2007
Sissy's mom takes her to the Palmist, Madame Zoe. They dressed in Sunday best for the reading of the p(s)alms. The description of Sissy's full lips on angular body fits Uma Thurman to a T.
In other pseudo-religious news, Saudi Arabian Imams are considering banning the letter X from that country because of its similarity (?) to the Christian cross. That's it! I'm no longer using the suspiciously crescent-shaped letter C in my correspondence with the Saudis. Stop the inanity!
Jan 22, 2007
I pass by a palm reader's neon sign every day. I haven't been tempted, like Sissy was, to stop by and get a handjob, so to speak, from Madame Whoever. But Tom is right. The palm to be read is red.
I'm watching a new DVD doc about Leonard Cohen. My first thought was, 'Why get a bunch of singers together to sing Cohen's songs less well than Cohen sang them?' But it does have its redeeming moments. Worth Seeing. It's called I'm Your Man.
"You'll never untangle the circumstances that brought you to this moment." Leonard Cohen
If we can't figure it out, why in the world should we think that our imaginary beings could? Why do we think we could make up a god that knows more than we know?
Jan 21, 2007
I like Robbins attention to detail here, "Mr. Hankshaw looked from his wife to the doctor to his high-top Red Wing work shoes (in which stolen laces had been recently replace)..."--referring to the Hankshaw boys' attempts to lengthen their thumbs a few pages earlier.
I bet that if Sissy's big thumbs were just a little more common there would be an internet newsgroup called alt.erotica.women.thumbs.big.big.big. But I guess there is in a way. The aftrlife is a website, two discussion groups and a blog dedicated to any and all Robbins-created exotic erotica.
Jan 20, 2007
Ah the obscure-quotes-quoting Dr. Dreyfus appears to examine Sissy's thumbs. Does he remind anyone else of the mask-wearing Marcel LeFevre in Jitterbug Perfume? A certain vagueness suggesting higher cogitation?
Does anyone know what "eyeshine treatment" Robbins is referring to?
In other news:
If you want to read a short interview with a classy communicator. Try this one with Noam Chomsky at the satirical magazine, The Beast Their Fifty Most Loathsome Americans article is interesting too.
Jan 19, 2007
Another one of my favorite quotes today, perverts with a "pallor that comes from sitting around stuffy rooms reading Playboy and the Bible". And more on the sexuality of young girls which is less uncomfortable to contemplate in Margaret Mead's books than in a male authors'.
Jan 18, 2007
It's entertaining but a bit difficult to read about young Sissy hitch-hiking in spite of all the advising against it. I just remember that this is a fable and a fantasy. And, hey, it all turned out all right.
To the right a picture of my mind under the Robbins influence.
Jan 17, 2007
Ah one of my favorite quotes, Robbins' criticism of the men of Richmond as "men who knew more about the carburetor than they knew about the clitoris"; a quote that inspired me to apply myself to learning as much as I could about one of these subjects (and the inner workings of cars did not interest me) and taught me the true educational meaning of the old advertising slogan, "Ask someone who owns one."
Here's a nice comment from Michael a couple of days ago:
#14..this page,which speaks to me about growing 'naturally' without yielding to excess pressures to grow up reminded me of....."Neoteny" is "remaining young", and it may be ironic that it is so little known, because human evolution has been dominated by it. Humans have evolved to their relatively high state by retaining the immature characteristics of their ancestors. Humans are the most advanced of mammals - although a case could be made for the dolphins - because they seldom grow up. Behavioral traits such as curiosity about the world, flexibility of response, and playfulness are common to practically all young mammals but are usually rapidly lost with the onset of maturity in all but humans. Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. SLWW.....and isn't there another line where he mentions the dolphins 'vestigial thumb'!? michael
I accidentally deleted a comment that said "DY 15 No no noooooo not another penis enlargement ad." Because I thought it was a penis enlargement ad, but now I see the appropriateness of the comment. On Day 15 Robbins compares Sissy's brothers' attempts to enlarge their own thumbs (indirectly increasing the size of another part of their bodies) to an attempt by pianist (pee'n'est) Robert Schuman to stretch his fingers because of complaints from his girlfriend. The perils of trying to be all that you can't be.
Jan 15, 2007
I love the irony of this sentence, "As the settlers pushed ever westward they were threatened constantly by hoards of savage Indians." Gee, I wonder why!
So Sissy grows her body without the slightest effort or attention. Is it intelligent lack of design?
Jan 14, 2007
Sissy first hitchin'. In the movie they pointed out that the make of car was named after a famous Indian Chief, Pontiac.
I got a letter from Tom yesterday. Those eye operations have really been a pain, literally. Send him some healing love if you have some to spare.
Jan 13, 2007
As I recall Tom once said that he hoped each of his novels would make even his fans uncomfortable. Well, young girls hitchhiking and getting molested is the issue that makes me uncomfortable in this novel. I know it was written on the cusp between the idealism (and relative safety) of hitchhiking in On the Road. And the freeway horrors of the next 30 years. And I realize that the point of the book is that women can do anything men can. And I realize that Tom says, "Don't be outraged, be outrageous." But this particular theme, of girls hitchhiking, makes me want to put a "For Adults Only" label on these pages. I think it doesn't take into consideration the violent sexual psychosis that has been rampant in America for quite a long time.
So I enjoy the fantasy of Sissy hitchhiking, but I see the sad reality that would make it a bad idea to pursue that fantasy in life.
Still love the book though.
Jan 12, 2007
Tom sums up page 11. "sixty acres of lipstick criminal moonlight"
Thanks to Michael who says, he is glad Sissy came twice. (because she hitchhiked to the Rubber Rose twice)for the inspiration for the title of today's blog post.
Denise has provided a great picture of her homemade tattoo of an amoeba (which is the official mascot of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) to illustrate...
Dale... count me in too. ECGTB is perfect since I have the goat w/panties tattoo. I'll even try to do better then I did in our last Yum.
Cool! You can be the official body-art spokesperson of the Daffy Yum.
Well... If I must shoulder responsibility I shall endure it with levity. Can I mandate all Yummers a TR related tat?
Sure mandate away (or womandate if you prefer). Have you had experience
herding cats before? :-)
And all getting tattoos, no less. But i'm in anyway.
Mine will be of the sharpie variety, design tbd.
Hey there Dale. I must say that with the response, so far, that it looks like we shalleth have a nicely sized herd for the Yum. Good thing I know catnip is the trick to cat herding.
The first "tattoo" is in honor of the book's official mascot, the amoeba, on my inner forearm, near the elbow (an easy place to graffiti on oneself). It's adapted from a photo on micrographia.com, colors embellished. I posted a photo in the miscellaneous folder.
Jan 11, 2007
Well I'm embarassed and ashamed. Usually I watch movies twice, but I was so in love with Cowgirls, the book, that I rejected the movie upon one viewing. And I've been close-minded about it for a long time. But I was wrong. Or at least I never gave it another chance to prove me wrong, until this week. I re-watched Cowgirls, the movie, and found it delightful in spite of its faults. (Delight in spite of everything?) The movie was visually beautiful and had a sweetness that you don't find much in movies anymore. Sure it had some pacing problems and the characters tended to make speeches--beautiful Tom Robbins words--but speeches nonetheless. But just as some people faulted Villa Incognito for being too short, I faulted this movie for not having the elements that I had learned to expect from movies (movie cliches?). But I found that if I accepted that the movie was sort of self-conscious (like a Robbins novel) that if I suspended the suspension of disbelief, that I could enjoy the movie for what it was...itself.
I'll write more about the movie later, but today as I read of Sissy's arrival at the Rubber Rose I had some beautiful visuals from the movie in my head and it made me appreciate the book more. This page explains why there was some controversy about Dale Evans. And it reminds me of a bumper sticker I used to have, "Success eliminates as many options as failure." which drew quite a lot of comment in success-mad Malibu where I was then living.
So, my apologies to Van Sant.
Jan 10, 2007
It's rectal temperature day here in the aftrlife. Bee proctologists are abuzz... I wonder if Global Warming has elevated rectal temperatures worldwide.
I was thinking that the only thing better about an oyster's pearl than other crappy creations is that humans have dubbed it so. In Nature the smooth and round are no more worthwhile than the dull and craggy. Being a bit dull and craggy I choose to celebrate the dung beetle today. The dung beetle rolls its own entertainment.
Jan 9, 2007
It's a thumb! Tom wrote, "The image of the clockwords tugs gently at the author's cuff..." That's what these opening pages feel like, like the tug of memory or pre-memory. Since I've read it before several times, the images of the whole book evoked in these pages is like memory. The first time I read it, though, these were hints of the memories of the narrator, and memories the reader didn't yet have. But in some sense it made the unfolding of the story seem like at least half-memory.
Yesterday weality said...just thought i'd throw this in from Nisargadatta Marharaj.."To know what you are,you must first investigate and know what you are not."
Yes, like a sculptor has to know what is not part of the piece.
Jan 8, 2007
Tom gave us a day off yesterday. But today he's back with a heapin' helpin' of metaphor stew. Today is a page of intricate information of what it is not. I should be receiving the movie version of Cowgirls in the mail today. I can't remember if it ever showed her thumbs or not. But that's not what it is not.
Favorite phrase: "the dreams that have got tangled in your lint" giving even the belly button a history and a future.
Jan 7, 2007
Hanging on the 'PhoneSan Francisco Bay Guardian - San Francisco,CA,USA... abhor any kind of musical comparison that might confine them to a certain genre and instead opt for literary references such as Tom Robbins, Ernest Hemingway ..
.whether 'tis noblerBy ptb Sure, we would have missed out on a lot of great writing, including my much adored and idolized Tom Robbins. Sure, there would be no point in making time to read the blogs I read everyday because they wouldn't exist. ...koans - http://part-timebuddha.squarespace.com/koans/
50bookchallenge @ 2007-01-05T00:05:00By 50bookchallenge(50bookchallenge) Jitterbug Perfume - Tom Robbins The latter being one of my all-time favorite books; the first favorite is Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (which will undoubtedly be re-read at least one this year). I would love recommendations to add...50 Book Challenge - http://community.livejournal.com/50bookchallenge/
Kornwolf: A NovelBy Tristan Egolf(firstname.lastname@example.org) ... on another, Kornwolf is a social satire of suburban sprawl, closed minds, and all manners and varieties of self-satisfaction — Amish, civilian, or... other — in the best tradition of Tom Robbins and George Saunders.PaperBackSwap New Postings - http://www.paperbackswap.com/
Still Life With WoodpeckerThe greatest book by the greatest author, Tom Robbins. I was reading Wild Ducks FLying Backward by him yesterday and ran across a passage from Still Life and it reminded me why I loved that book so mu...Tera - MySpace Blog - http://blog.myspace.com/teracarlile
Quotations for today.. welcome to my headBy wishingwell111(wishingwell111) From Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins "The clouds are throwing shoes as well as rice. You feel like the bride at some elemental wedding." I am feeling a bit out of sorts. For some reason I am attracting the view of reality ...wishingwell111 - http://wishingwell111.livejournal.com/
Love Quotations Albert Einstein: Gravitation is no...By Models of Car(Models of Car) Tom Robbins: The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. We waste time looking for the perfect ...Unlimited FUN-Bazar - http://funbazar.blogspot.com/index.html
By Readers(Readers) Jitterbug Perfume - Tom Robbins; Flying Blind - Malcolm Rose; The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy; Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie; Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger; The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold ...Readers - http://community.livejournal.com/books/
I love the booksBy cissella And this is not counting all those that I re-read (Lord of the Rings, many Terry Pratchett books, a few Tom Robbins books, the entirety of the Dark Tower series). I definitely fulfilled my desire to read a lot of new books and new ...Gazelles On Crack - http://gazellesoncrack.com/
I like it when a good plan comes together....By Pennie Boots It's Tom Robbins "Skinny Legs & All". I've never read Robbins before, but Meliss and I have pretty much the same tastes in books, we'll see how it goes. I also wandered into the music section and ended up picking up Loreena McKennitt's ...
Why Rush.... - http://mutleycrew.typepad.com/why_rush/
What I Read in 2006By PoliReads(PoliReads) Still Life with Woodpecker - Tom Robbins Catch Me If You Can - Frank Abagnale Jr Hershey : Milton S. Hershey's extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams - Michael D'Antonio Don't Get Too Comfortable : The Indignities of
Consumers changing? Or beginning of the end of the brand?By mary wynne-wynter These two articles seem related to me. I think of a quote from a favorite Tom Robbins book that has stuck with me for decades: "the more advertising I see the less I want to buy." Skin Deep: The Cosmetics...- http://www.redshiftblog.com/blog/
Jan 6, 2007
Easy reading today. Just a quote from Aloysius 'Trader' Horn, who also said, "They have a telegraph, though - drums. There's a sound that'll crawl up your spine and down to your gizzard. Maybe you'll hear it one of these days."
The tagline for the 1931 movie, Trader Horn, was WHITE GODDESS OF THE PAGAN TRIBES. THE CRUELEST WOMAN IN ALL AFRICA! Tom referred to his loft-mate in his New York happening days as the "White Queen of the Pygmies". She claimed to be the model for Amanda.
And, of course, John Paul Ziller was born in Africa. The hyenas ate his after-birth. And, Lord, how he could drum.
Seems Tom had a hankerin' for Africa.
Jan 5, 2007
I like the way Tom uses all the senses here: breeze on thigh, sage and rose, flies and polka, especially sound. And again he foreshadows the stories with incidental details like "the pile of hairdryers rusting" and the "bird herd."
Bonanaza thinking about the Chink made me think of how the relationship of Tom's women seemed to change with this novel. In ARA Amanda was at least as independent and formidable as the men, but in this one the women are more drawn in terms of the men. Still feminist, but a little less leaders.
I'm going to try to tie the daily reading into my own writing routine. Today I think I'll try listing as many sounds, smells, and tactile sensationas around me and see how to describe them in a meaningful and/or unique way.
Jan 4, 2007
I love the way Tom moves into and out of viewpoint on this page. Part of the time he is the storyteller at other times his prose reflects Bonanza Jellybean's speech patterns. Anybody remember who the ultimate voice of this novel belongs to?
One line that made me laugh was, "a photograph of Dale Evans, about which there was some controversy". Oh and the absence of Roto Rooter women. Both things show his gentle take on feminism and yet do make a point.
I put Even Cowgirls into my Blockbuster online queue. Surprise! It's available. :-) I put it at the top but, they're sending me Down in the Valley, an Edward Norton directed movie. I just watched Snakes on a Plane. Pretty highbrow stuff!
Jan 3, 2007
I like his reference to Amanda in Another Roadside Attraction with the line, "It has been said that human beings were created by water as a device for carrying itself from one place to another, but that's another story."
I put the Cowgirls DVD on my Blockbuster Online queue. I usually watch movies twice but I was so disappointed when this one came out I didn't. Maybe it has improved with age (mine or its?)
Jan 2, 2007
Here we go. I guess I should warn people who are reading Cowgirls for the first time that there will be some spoiler information. For instance, since Tom writes on a one-way street and doesn't re-write, it's amazing to me that the major themes of the book are laid out in page 1 and 2. It's obvious he'd done a lot of thinking before he started.
The way he used amoeba and water to demonstrate...I don't know how else to say it... the interconnection of all things, the flexibility of time and the indestrutability of life seems like a home-grown glimpse of a complex cosmos that reminds me of Hindi Tales without the multiple arms and bejeweledness.
Jan 1, 2007
Tomorrow is the big day. Every journey begins with one page, and this journey through Tom's ouevre is well over a thousand steps. At about a year per book we're looking at about 7 more years of reading a page a day. That's about the rate that he wrote the books in days although not in hours. I might not get there with ya, but it's a worthy pilgrimage.