SPOTLIGHT | TOM ROBBINS
photo manipulation by nacrowe
i remember in SEPTEMBER 2001 moving to SACRAMENTO from KUWAIT in the horrible aftermath of 9/11. it was my second move in two years and my third high school overall. i just remember feeling disconnected from my family and being in a hick town surrounded by cartoonishly jingoistic young republican youth didn't help matters.
my english teacher had some term paper we were supposed to write based on a list of prescribed authors. this dude TOM ROBBINS had an asterisk that said i had to get parental permission to read it so obviously my choice was predetermined. i read ANOTHER ROADSIDE ATTRACTION (DOUBLEDAY 1971) in short order and ROBBINS remains a favorite to this day. probably the only thing i gained during my time out there, apart from my contemporaneous exploration ofGUSTAV MAHLER and the pre-WWII AUSTRIAN SECESSIONIST ART movement (think GUSTAV KLIMT, EGON SCHIELE and OSKAR KOKOSCHKA).
what i love about ROBBINS style is his love for the diatribe, the side road, the long overly-descriptive detour from the main plot that he seemingly indulged in multiple times a chapter. after reading HERMAN MELVILLE years later i can see some context for this style, but i was taken aback at the time that you could do that. when you read a ROBBINS novel, you very much have to submit to his will and let him be your guide, as he will get into excruciating detail into seeming red herrings that don't necessarily contribute to the narrative arc of the story, some might, some don't. it keeps you on your toes and his preternatural ability for sumptuous, indulgent description makes these odd-road ventures wholly worthwhile. its very much a style about the trip and not the destination. the plot itself is almost an excuse for the language, which is beyond unique.
all of his novels are well-worth reading. i recommend his work enthusiastically and have done so with former students over the years. he is definitely on my shortlist.
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