Thursday, December 13, 2012

Literary Bite: Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

This book was super weird. I liked it. But it was super weird.

Despite the fact that I write book reviews, I don’t actually read them. So when someone hands me a book and says Mollie, read this!, I say Ok! and jump right in.

It wasn’t until I’d read about 20 pages that I wondered, what is this supposed to be about??? And read the back of the book:

  • An Arab and a Jew open a restaurant together across the street from the United Nations... It sounds like the beginning of an ethnic joke, but it's the axis around which spins Tom Robbins's gutsy, fun-loving, and alarmingly provocative new novel, in which a bean can philosophizes, a dessert spoon mystifies, a young waitress takes on the New York art world, and a rowdy redneck welder discovers the lost god of Palestine--while the illusions that obscure humanity's view of the true universe fall away, one by one, like Salome's veils. 

My biggest problem with the story was the inanimate-objects-as-characters parts. Robbins used them as a vehicle to philosophize, which is a bit annoying, and frankly I just don’t care what a can of beans “thinks.” I didn’t think Robbins' ideas on the Middle East/religion/race were particularly revolutionary either. The human story line was great, but in the middle of the book the objects took over and it felt forced and tedious.

So to talk about the human side of the story, it’s about Ellen Cherry, a woman from the South who moves to New York with her goofy husband, to become an artist. When her husband accidentally finds success in art long before she does, she starts working at the aforementioned restaurant and all of a sudden finds herself in the middle of the conflict over the Middle East.

Robbins’ writing style is fun – very figurative and rhythmic ("The winter passed as slowly and peacefully as a boa constrictor digesting a valium addict"). For the most part the story was a fun mix of absurdity, sexuality, and racism (if we can call that a “fun mix”?). Apparently Robbins’ has a huge following, and just based on this book, I would say he’s definitely a love-it-or-hate-it type of writer.

If this kind of book sounds like your jam then read it! But I'm hesitant to strongly recommend it.