Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tom and I

Over the years, I've had a bit of a love affair with books written by Tom Robbins. His stories are nutty, colourful, and transport me to places that could normally only be reached by smoking a little too much of the green stuff.

The books of his that I've read have been spaced far apart, at various points in my life.

I began with Even Cowgirls Get the Blues when I was living in London and working behind a bar. Couldn't put it down.

A few years later, a worn copy of Still Life with Woodpecker came into my possession, courtesy of a backpacking hostel I was staying at. I couldn't put it down.

When I was living in Melbourne and a new library branch opened - conveniently - just a block away from the school I taught at in the CBD, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates helped the tram ride commute pass quickly. I couldn't put it down.

Then only last year, I felt the pull to read another one of his books, so asked around to see what people's favourite Tom Robbins book was. The answer was fairly unanimous: Jitterbug Perfume. I ordered it from Amazon, and once it was in my hands, I couldn't put it down.

So when our tiny local library branch closed down for renovations recently, I was more than excited to discover that the second closest branch is, in fact, massive. An entirely separate (large) room for the children's section, complete with toys - win! - well away from the rest of the library. Miss Pie can run crazy in that section, and no one is disturbed.

After our first visit there, on our way out, it occurred to me that I should grab a book for myself too. We were passing through the adult section and I looked up, realising that we were right by the R authors. A no brainer. Tom Robbins, here I come! I grabbed a copy of Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas and left.

That night, I opened it up with anticipation. All his books had been a fabulous ride and it was time for another.

I wanted to love it. I wanted to like it... but I struggled. The second person narrative, in present tense, made me feel as though I was reading one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books from when I was eight years old: "You walk into the next room and see a cupboard. What do you do? You open it (go to page 37) or you walk back out of the room (go to page 22)."

I tried so hard to like it, but when bedtime came, I found myself making excuses and spending time online instead. Before I knew it, three weeks had passed and the book was due. I'd read maybe twenty pages, but not wanting to admit defeat, I renewed the book.

A second chance, yet I put off reading it again. Another week passed before I picked it up. I struggled on for another twenty or so pages, and then it was due again. I'd had the book for six weeks, and still hadn't delved into it. I did what any self-respecting person would do, and renewed the book one final time (the library's policy is a maximum of two renewals).

A final chance to finish the book, once and for all. I made another effort and although none of the characters were likeable, every now and then I was rewarded by a line - even a paragraph - that was pure Tom Robbins and needed to be rolled around in my head several times before continuing, much in the same way I savour good chocolate or wine.

Silly me, though. I didn't read it every night, and it only began to get interesting in the final week that I had it. I was less than a third of a way through it - there was no way I was going to finish it in time.

Nine weeks to read a single book? That's a pretty lame effort on my behalf. A book by anyone else, and I doubt I would have held on to it for so long. I usually know - within the first one or two pages - whether a book is worth my time or not, and there are few books I've given up on, several chapters in.

Tom Robbins and I - we'd had a good history together. I had every reason to believe the payoff would be on the next page... but it never came.

My choice was to either hang on to the book - and incur a substantial fine, perhaps another two months later - or admit defeat and return it. Although it just about killed my pride, I chose the latter.


This sad little tale will be linking up this week with Mama Kat's writing prompt:

Book review time! Some people STILL read books…share one of your more recent reads and tell us what you thought!

Click here for link


  1. Wow. 9 weeks is telling!

    I've never read Tom Robbins, but I'm hopping over to Goodreads now to add him to my list. Not 'Frog Pajamas,' though. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Seattle is heavily featured in a lot of his work, which I always enjoyed revisiting (have only spent a few days there - more than a decade ago - but it left an impression). Check out Jitterbug Perfume. Can't go wrong!

  2. Don't feel bad. I picked up Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury as something to do backstage when I was waiting for my next scene. I actually got to the last 5 pages and the show ended. This was back in 1984 and I haven't picked up the book since.

    1. That does make me feel a little better. Only 5 pages to go?

      I guess it wasn't meant to be.