Double Billed

Columbus Alive | August 25, 2005
It’s not the wildly silly plots, bizarrely named characters or quirky, mystical eroticism of the many sex scenes that make the novels of Tom Robbins—pop counterculture classics like Even Cowgirls Get the Blues or Jitterbug Perfume—such joys to read. Nor is it the simple (but obvious) fact that Robbins is a rather good writer, always finding the least likely but most perfect imagery, and turning otherwise over-long sentences into rhythmic chants—the man kicks ass with a comma.

No, what makes a Robbins novel worth reading are the many well researched but seemingly random asides, diversions and mini essays on subjects like beets, whooping cranes, redheads or religions. And that’s what makes his new Wild Ducks Flying Backward (Bantam) worth reading—it’s nothing but such good stuff, minus the context of the novel he usually couches such writing in.

Wild Ducks is full of short pieces of his travel writing (usually to Africa) for magazines, some so-so poems and a so-so short story, responses to particular questions and, perhaps most rewardingly, a section marked “tributes,” paeans to such diverse characters as MTV VJ Duff, Joseph Campbell, the Doors, Leonard Cohen, Ray Kroc and “genius” waitresses. Despite the forty years or so the work covers, it’s all told in a recognizably Robbins voice, half comedian, half college professor, all electrically enlightened and quintessentially American. After all, by selling a book at least half full of old freelance work, Robbins gets paid twice for it—and what could be more American than that? Luckily for Robbins, his work is so often worth a double bill.

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Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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