Monday, April 18, 2011

Fiction Comedy Novel: Another Roadside Attraction, Jitterbug Perfume, Skinny Legs and All, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Author: Tom Robbins

What Kind of Cigar Evokes Shimmering Sentences?

“The magician’s underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami.” Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

Tom Robbins gets up on Monday morning, eats breakfast, and at nine o’clock he sits down in front of his typewriter, smokes a cigar and starts to write.

“The afternoon sky looked like a brain. Moist. Gray. Convoluted. A mad-scientist breeze probed at the brain, causing it to bob and quiver as if it were immersed in a tank of strange liquids.” Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

He writes a sentence but he doesn’t add a period. He reworks the sentence until it “reverberates with the subtle texture of the infinite.”* (Adam Szymkowicz) Then he adds a period. A sentence might take hours or a whole day.

“There are several ways of looking at an FBI agent. One of these ways is over a tsetse fly. Our tsetse fly was moored in a cube of amber, its thin wings frozen in single-minded elegance, its hairy legs straddling eternity.” Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

After reading over the first sentence, he writes a second; once again leaving off the period. He reworks the second sentence until it “shimmers”*; then he adds a period.

“The last time I was on a Mexican beach, some guy stole my transistor radio,” sighed Amanda.
“Why that’s a dirty shame,” I sympathized.
“Oh, it was all right,” she said. “He took the radio but he left the music.”
Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction

Maybe Tom had the same creative writing mentor as Jennifer Crusie. “My old creative writing mentor had a good exercise for that: “Suppose people could only buy your stories one sentence at a time. If they read the first sentence, would they want to buy the next one?”)”**

“Moon medicine and jazz powders. Lucky root and come-together potent. Mojo cream and loa lotion. Hurricane drops, kill-me-not juice, coonass courting pomade, and a special oil-of-midnight that had nothing to do with overtime at the office.” Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

He is a pantser who doesn’t plan or plot.

“For the rest of our sleeping session, the unconscious mind is off duty. It gets bored. It craves recreation. So it plays with the material at hand. In a sense it plays with itself. It scrambles memories, juggles images, rearranges data, invents scary or titillating stories. This is what we call ‘dreaming’.” Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

And yet his plots are thorough, complicated, compelling and clever.

“I’ve never been kissed by a man in Donald Duck sunglasses before,” said Leigh-Cheri.
“I apologize,” said Bernard. “I’m sorry about the Donald Duck sunglasses. They ought to be Woody Woodpecker sunglasses, but nobody makes Woody Woodpecker sunglasses.”
Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

And funny. Did I mention funny? I mean at-the-edge-of-your-seat, what-can-possibly-happen-next, laugh-until-you-cry, funny.

“It was a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day at the onset of spring, and the newlyweds were driving cross country in a large, roast turkey.” Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All

Y’all I tried writing like this and all I can say is, what the hell is in that cigar he smokes at the beginning of each day?

“Amoebae leave no fossils. They haven’t any bones. (No teeth, no belt buckles, no wedding rings.) It is impossible therefore, to, determine how long amoebae have been on Earth.” Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was made into a movie. The movie is good but it’s not as good as the book, of course.

Tom writes as if it is a normal day job; nine to five, Monday to Friday is writing time. He doesn’t write at noon on a Saturday or seven o’clock on a Tuesday. He writes until he reaches the last sentence in the book, makes it shimmer and puts a period.

I love Tom. I’ve read most everything he’s written. For those of you (us) on a budget, you’ll find most of his books in your library. My favorite will always be Another Roadside Attraction. Where else will you find a real flea circus, the body of Jesus stolen from the depths of the Vatican and an endless array of food made with some very potent mushrooms?

For a good bibliography go to:

Writing the way Tom does will keep you in the moment. Try it. I’ve already tried it so I’m just going to be here banging my head repeatedly on my desk.



  1. Ooooo. Those are some shiny sentences. I suspect a mild halucinogen. I will have to check my library. :)

    (For the record, I can't write one sentence at a time. Maybe I'll have to work on it.)

  2. Not only have I read EVERY book he's ever written, I own them all! I adore this man's writing, in a very freakish and devoted way. Seriously, adore adore adore. He is right up there with Christopher Moore in my adoration.


  3. Dee - hehehe that's what I'm saying - wacky tobaccy in them thar cigars!

    Julie - When you have time click on Adam's article and read about how Tom writes. Adam was supposed to help him write a screenplay (maybe for the Cowgirls movie?). Poor guy. Can you imagine trying to work with Tom when he works like this? I do love all his books, though.