If Oprah Can Do It, Why Can’t I? Rob’s Book Club: Jitterbug Perfume (Originally published November 11, 2009)

It may not seem like it, considering all my posts appear to be about listening to music or watching TV, but I do like to read.  I just haven’t had much time to do it.  That’s why I decided to take a class this semester devoted to novels, and I have read more books this semester than I have in over a year, reading things like Watership Down, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, and now Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins.

I suggested this book to my small group because I’d heard so many good things about Robbins and never got around to reading it when I bought it over a year ago.  Man, am I glad I’ve finally devoted time to it because it is great.

If you like surrealistic humor, this book is for you.  I’m only about a third of the way through it but from what I can gather, the narrative incorporates perfume (well, no shit), French dudes wearing whale masks, a bi-curious and brilliant scientist who works as a waitress, beets, an immortal king, and Pan.  Yep, the mythical god; except in this he’s literally a horny old goat.

The humor is perhaps the best part of it.  There are numerous tangents that only relate to the story in the loosest ways possible, but somehow they work.  There is a lot of fourth wall breaking going on as well, when Robbins decides to address the reader directly, such as when he is too lazy to write French dialogue.

Everything seems to be done in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but then, every few paragraphs, Robbins decides to drop a bomb of profundity, dealing with social, political, or entertainment-industry commentary.  In the opening paragraph of the first chapter, Robbins discusses how real artists would never actually live in studio apartments due to space constrictions.  “Clerks live in studio apartments,” he states.

Now, I have no idea if the disparate elements of the plot will come together into a satisfying ending, but at the moment I’m content to do the whole “enjoying the journey” thing.  If you want to pick up a novel that will make you laugh, as well as think about the world, you could do worse than Jitterbug Perfume.


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