As I’ve said in some recent post which I can’t be bothered to go looking for at the moment, this pandemic-stay-at-home thing has caught me woefully unprepared in terms of my to-read pile. Where I’ve normally had four or five books waiting for me, I was almost empty-handed when COVID came a-knockin’.
That being said, I’ve finished up the last book that was in the pile and decided to go backwards. Journeying back to the source you might say. Which yes, is a bit of clumsy foreshadowing.
I was first introduced to Tom Robbins in college as an English major. During a fiction class, we were all instructed to bring in a book that we thought had an excellent first page or paragraph. For the life of me, I can’t remember the book I brought in, but I damn sure remember that one of my classmates read the first page of Still Life With Woodpecker.
To say it blew my mind was an understatement. Up to that point, not only did I not know of any who wrote like that, I didn’t even know you could write like that. Within a couple weeks, I was inhaling that book with a gusto I’d lost where reading was concerned. That summer, I spent every spare moment reading every Tom Robbins book I could get my hands on – Skinny Legs And All, Jitterbug Perfume, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, and Another Roadside Attraction.
In the years since, I’ve read all of Robbins’ books multiple times along with his autobiography. However, I somehow had forgotten that Roadside was his first book (published in 1971) until I started to re-read it last week. It’s both ridiculous and appropriate that in his opening novel, he would tackle a subject like religion in both a profound and ludicrous way.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that some of what Tom has written hasn’t exactly aged well into the 21st century. There’s words and ideas that would cause quite a stir if they were to come rolling off the press all shiny and new today. Then again, there’s also a lot in his books that feels right at home in our times as well. Sifting through and sorting those two columns is a decent mental exercise in itself.
There’s certain books, authors, and music that are touchstones for me. When things get rough or I’m lacking direction, I go back to them and take an emotional, spiritual, and mental compass reading. Tom Robbins is one of those authors for me. Having read his books at several different stages of my life, it’s interesting to see what stands out to me now as opposed to then.
Besides, when a global pandemic is knocking at your door and the idiot box is chock full of its namesake… why not have a little comfort?