A Critic's Meta Review: 5/5
Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins (REVIEW)
I do not usually engage in matters of superstition. My mother is quite fond of such things as synchronicities and other forms of spiritual speculation. To an extent, I have integrated much of her outlook into my life - throwing a few doses of cold logic in for good measure, so as not to burn myself on all the fiery, revelatory passion that comes with flirting so often with the divine energy that pervades the universe - but, nevertheless, I have always approached these sorts of things with a sturdy pair of skeptical spectacles resting upon my inquisitive sniffler.
This is why, when I was first recommended this book, while eating a bowl of stir fry on a hammock outside of a hillside hostel in Medellin, Colombia, by a kid who had just rode all the way down there on his bicycle from Washington state, I thought nothing of it. We had just gotten done writing a “group poem” together, in which a blank page was passed around a table on which each person would scrawl a couple lines (which I recommend trying out next time you find yourself amongst new company) and, after reading the lines I had written, the bike dude asked me who I liked to read. I responded by pulling out the book I was reading at the time: Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.
He smiled, nodded knowingly, and then asked me if I had read anything by Tom Robbins before.
He was a little shocked when I told him I had never even heard of the guy before. From there, I was recommended this book, along with Jitterbug Perfume and Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.
A few weeks later, as I was driving to New York with my father and two mighty fine folks he had met at a ten-day meditation retreat in Delaware (where I had just gotten done helping out in the kitchen for a few days before parting for a Phish show in Pittsburgh), one of the passengers - an incredible folkstress by the name of Hana Zara, who actually inspired me to get back into songwriting, in addition to checking out this book - after getting a taste for my personality and overall style, asked me if I had read anything by Tom Robbins.
I responded by telling her that I had actually just been recommended the author, and asked her which books she would suggest starting with. This book was the only one she mentioned. She described the writing in it as “Shakespeare for psychonauts,” a description that I now wholeheartedly understand. She told me that I had to go out and get it immediately, since now two people had recommended it to me, which obviously meant I had been predestined to read it.
She went on to tell me that she had written an entire concept album dedicated to one of this book’s best characters - Amanda, who has since become the object of my dreams and the only type of girl I could ever see myself settling with at this point - which can be purchased right here.
Then, just as I had started to get into this book, I sent a story that I had written last summer to one of my neighbors. The next time I saw him, he pulled me aside and said only two words:
At this point, I knew that chalking all of this up to mere coincidence would be incredibly foolish of me. And, despite all indications to the contrary, I am no fool.
As for my thoughts on the novel, well, I feel like everything that I have written since beginning to read this book sometime near the end of the summer (which, for some reason, feels like forever ago) has been pretty indicative as to how much I was enjoying it. In fact, strangely, I feel like my writing prior to reading this book has always been of the same vein. This is probably why all of the people that have made the Tom Robbins connection with me were so taken aback when I told them that I had never read any of his books. However, this does not surprise me very much; towards this book’s denouement, Robbins perfectly sums up my approach to writing (in the form of Marx Marvelous, the hemorrhoid-afflicted man of science who has a thing for our sagely heroine, Amanda):
“Often the things that pop out of my typewriter regale me, especially when I am trying to say something else and in a different way only to have a kind of metamorphosis take place during the act of typing and - whammo! - a concept I hadn’t counted on is strutting its vaudeville on the page. But like love and art, you can’t force it to happen.”
That’s really how it be, at least for me. And, in the immortal words of Oscar Gamble, “they don’t think it be like it is - but it do.”
It truly do.