PDA

View Full Version : Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins



AmyBA
10-07-2006, 03:49 PM
Welcome to AW's October book group discussion for Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume.

Please feel free to join in the discussion anytime-- lurkers welcome!

Here are a few questions to get the conversation started. Please don't feel like you have to answer all (or any) of them; posting your own questions is always okay.

1. Jitterbug Perfume was originally published in 1984. How well does the book hold up more than 20 years later? Do you think people will still be reading it in another 20 years?

2. What's your opinion of Robbins' writing style? Strengths and weaknesses?

3. Robbins touches on potentially controversial subjects like sex, death, religion, and individualism. Did you find anything about the book objectionable?

4. How do you feel about the characters?

5. Robbins relies heavily on humor; how successful are his attempts at being funny?

6. In an interview with January Magazine, Robbins says, "I think biographical information can get in the way of the reading experience. The interchange between the reader and the work. For example, I know far too much about Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut. Because I know as much as I do about their personal lives, I can't read their work without this interjecting itself." Would you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Do you like to know a lot about the author of a book you're reading? Does the author's biography matter to you as a reader?

Discuss! ;)

pdr
10-08-2006, 05:23 AM
Jitterbug Perfume

1. Nope. I can see why it sold at the time. Can't see it becoming a classic, the writing's too lousy. Such a lot of the book is very 80s, uncontrolled, unedited, self indulgent verbal vomit.

2.
The writing is really bad. Apparantly Robbins fancies himself as America's Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and P.G. Wodehouse rolled into one. He has neither the wit, brains, nor funny bone to do it. Nor does he have their writing ability. He's very clumbsy with words and his imagery is so heavy handed it stamps at you.

He also seems to fancy himself as a modern Shakespeare with that wondrous facility to use words. Hah! He's ghastly! All those overdone and overblown metaphors and similes that are often so obscure the reader is pulled up to go: 'Huh?' and try to work them out. He doesn't have the quick wit and depth of knowledge to write clever and witty asides.

3. Robbins touches on potentially controversial subjects like sex, death, religion, and individualism.
And Uncle Tom Cobbly and all! What doesn't he sprinkle the book with just for shock effect? He is spawn of the 80s, the worst of New Age. So this book insists that inhibitions are wrong, sex is all, plus a passing conscious mention of ecology with that forced symbolism. Tom Robbins is obviously like some of my trendy professors in the 80s who used to lean on the pretty young students with the same line about inhibitions being bad for you and sex, with them of course, when they wanted it, was so healthy!!!

He's like a little boy writing rude words on street walls and yelling 'pe*nis'. He's so busy trying to shock the reader and prove what a great uninhibited writer he is that the story goes to pot. ( Yes, that is an intentional double entendre!)

Why didn't his editor tell him to cut out the sideshows and tell the story?

4. What characters? Cardboard 2Ds to bear the weight of his heavy handed posturing and preaching.

5. Humour?
Maybe this is a culture thing and Americans find TR funny but I'm not American and his heavy handed efforts are not funny at all. It's all so obvious, 'custard pie in the face', unsubtle, puerile stuff. Maybe it's a jock thing and his humour will go down a treat in the locker room. (I think that's the American term for our changing room.)

6. Does the author's biography matter to you as a reader?
Nope, the writing tells me about the writer. If I enjoy a writer's work then I may look up the basics. It's the writing that counts.

TrainofThought
10-08-2006, 09:18 AM
In the beginning, Robbins had my attention switching from Alobar to Seattle, New Orleans, and Paris. I wanted to see where he was going, but got lost along the way. The switches and story are monotonous, yet Robbins keeps hitting levels of absurdity.

In the 80’s, sex and individualism were sought after like previous generations. I can see why this may capture a certain audience at the time. He plays on eccentricity attracting young readers to think this is new asking them to join the ranks of the unique.

His writing style is bizarre and I found it difficult to visualize characters and settings based on descriptions and analogies. Some of the analogies were good like, “Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air-moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh…”, but he threw in too many others that washed out the good. Here is an example, “She lowered her eyelids, lids that resembled purses sewn from the skins of thick, dark grapes.” Huh? He details throughout with repetition making approximately the last 50 pages hodgepodge. There are only so many ways to describe bodily secretions, smells and sex.

The characters’ stories were only an outline for Robbins’s fill of hallucinations. I can’t even explain what he meant to do with the story. What was the significance of the bees with Pajama Bingo and then Huxley Anne? Why at the end is Priscilla’s ex in love with her, and why bother bringing Ricki? I actually thought Wiggs Dannyboy was Alobar reincarnated. That's what I think the story is about, reincarnation, not everlasting life.

His humor interrupted the flow. He put it in as if telling the reader a little secret, but majority of the time it wasn’t funny and meaningless. If he cut out the humor, the book probably would have ended 40 pages earlier.

I didn’t need to know about him the writing explained it all. I may have misinterpreted the entire book, but it doesn’t matter since I would never recommend it or the author.

Unique
10-08-2006, 03:57 PM
I couldn't finish this book. I was afraid if I were struck blind it would be the last book I'd read - I would have committed suicide.

If you want to know how I really felt, reread pdr's post. That sums it up for me.

The characters were shallow, the sex gratuitous, plot was whipstitched rather than knitted together; humour? Was there something funny in there? Not.

I did not like it Sam I Am
It felt like reading lots of Spam. pbbbbtttt.... :p

blacbird
10-09-2006, 02:31 AM
I find all of Tom Robbins' fiction to be cloyingly self-absorbed, the main thing he seems to be trying to say is: "Look at me! Look at me! See how good a writer I am!" I'd read Cowgirls and Roadside Attraction some years ago, and gave Jitterbug a go when it came out in paperback. That lasted about ten pages, before I went on to something else. Life is too short.

caw.

Soccer Mom
10-09-2006, 05:54 PM
I got sick of Alobar. We spent waaaay too much time on the guy. I found the modern day action more interesting.

The sexual obsession got to be a bit much too.

And I agree with the descriptions. Enough already. I like a little less talk and a lot more action.

Birol
10-09-2006, 06:55 PM
Those of you who are saying the characters are shallow, how do you mean? What would you have liked to see more of where they were concerned?

Unique
10-09-2006, 08:54 PM
The characters I remember were the King (Alobar), his SO, the two women in New Orleans, the two brothers in France, Pan, and the chick in the Pacific Northwest.

But what do I remember about them? Not much.

The King didn't want to die.
The King's consort made rope but preferred making perfume.
Pan was fading away.
The chick was pathetic.
One of the French brothers wore a whale mask. (for whatever reason)
And the two in New Orleans...the old one was a stepmother of sorts to the one in the NW.

After ~159 pages I should have known more about these characters. Maybe the author told us more about them but it was hard to pick out any details because the story was incoherent - maybe incohesive is a better word (if it IS a word)

The only part I enjoyed, the only part that hung together and made sense was when the King and the former ropemaking woman got chased out of their home because people noticed they were living too long and not aging. That scene was cohesive and it made sense.

Otherwise to me, it read like this .......>thunk<..............>thunk<.........>thunk< I kept falling out of the story.

Soccer Mom
10-09-2006, 10:41 PM
There was no main character. We jumped from character to character so that I never really bonded with any of them. And no one was particularly sympathetic. I just never had a reason to care for any of them. The story was about:

Kudra and Alobar and Pan and Priscilla and Rikki and The ladies in New Orleans and the two french guys and that DannyBoy and Huxley Anne and the Pajama character and I don't even remember who all.

It was like the kitchen sink.

Perks
10-09-2006, 11:27 PM
Oh dear. I loved it. I read it about four years ago and realized that what I thought was my copy was actually my best friend's copy and was, subsequently, cozied up on her bookshelf 500 miles away. I was going to read it again before this discussions, but found my mistake too late. The particulars are going to escape me now.

To me, the writing is definitely odd, but what I remember at the end was feeling like I'd woken from a delightfully wacky dream - refreshed and smirking. Some of it was over the top, but as someone usually sensitive to "trying to hard", it wasn't offputting.

His gusto for writing about sex didn't bother me. It seemed to suit the characters and the story.

AmyBA
10-10-2006, 12:08 AM
You know, Perks, if you want, I'll gladly send you my copy. :) (Seriously, I know I'll never read this book again-- PM me if you want it.)

I thought the characters weren't much more than vehicles for Robbins to show off how much he could talk about sex and show us what a smart and uninhibited sort of guy he is. Bits and pieces were funny, but overall, I think he tried too hard to be "Different!" at the expense of his story.

P.H.Delarran
10-10-2006, 12:28 AM
I enjoyed this up until he started into the theories about aging and evolution and flower brains. At that point I tuned him out, because at this point I felt I was listening to the author (possibly one with a long history of hallucinogenic use?) and not a character.
Yes I felt he overused metaphors and similies, but to me they were so off the wall that they were amusing. I 'got' many of the connections and it made me laugh that he chose them, surely knowing most readers would be lost. The quirkiness kept me reading, and laughing. I did often wonder though how he became a successful writer if all of his books have this same style.
I was disappointed in the character development. He snagged me right away with most of the major characters, and then left them hanging, and me wondering about them. And their connections to each other were so cold. The way he just left them without a goodbye or much explanation was frustrating. Especially Pan. He was such a vital part of the story, and could have been written much better.
Overall, even though I know this doesn't deserve much literary acclaim, I'm glad I read it, and will hang on to my copy, in case I get a wild whim to revisit it some day. I guess the main appeal was the concept behind the story. It stimulated my thinking in some fun ways. Even though he failed miserably to create a tightly crafted piece, I will never forget the book, nor a few of the characters.

Perks
10-10-2006, 12:28 AM
Lol! If you're giving it away, I'd love it. Seriously, I thought it was terrific. Perhaps I am in a perpetually weird mood.

Birol
10-10-2006, 01:07 AM
Keeping in mind that I haven't read the book, based on some of your guy's descriptions, it almost sounds as if the characters were allegorical or symbolic?

Perks
10-10-2006, 01:12 AM
I think so. It was far less narrative than a vehicle for an idea, a double dare to play along. Very dreamlike. Like dozing off after one glass too many and having a dream that you can almost explain when you wake up.

Unique
10-10-2006, 01:59 AM
If I had been as stoned when I read it as he was when he wrote it I would have enjoyed it too - :tongue

P.H.Delarran
10-10-2006, 02:39 AM
I think they were a bit allagoric, yes. Allomar represented an evolved way of thinking about the longevity of life and resisting cutural traditions of death. And Pan represented, or rather was, a god, whose need in society was dying and thus, so was he.

Julie Worth
10-10-2006, 02:46 AM
I enjoyed it, though that was before I started writing. And maybe the connections to New Orleans influenced me, since I’d lived there and bought perfume from Hove Parfumeur, which was featured in the book. BTW, the proprietor took a while to realize that it wasn’t a terrible thing to be written about, and now a nice letter from Robbins resides under glass in their small showroom--or it did the last time I was in there, some years ago.

pdr
10-10-2006, 03:10 AM
Yes, the book was obviously meant to be a deeply meaningful, highly symbolic look at society in the 80s. I guess that's how he sold it to the publisher.

But Robbins is too self indulgent. It's his navel contemplating view of society, without any real understanding of the world and where it was at in the 1980s.
He simply doesn't have the intellect to do this type of writing.

His characters were cardboard because they were all vehicles for his heavy handed writing about HIS self indulgent, cliched ideas.

Pan was an overloaded effort at ecology and the need for conservation, but also had to carry the 'throw away your inhibitions' line as well. Too much to load on a 2D character..

The other characters were nasty and supremely forgettable. Life is to be lived to the full, in Tom Robbins' way, seems to be the sum of the book, and that's an old cliche anyway.

If you're going to make clever asides and puns then you have to have the wit to make them. Robbins doesn't.

Every image in the book is a barrow load of concrete, shovelled on with a spade. Witty social comment needs the delicacy of a pointing trowel, a nudge to the reader, not a boringly repeated clout over the head.

P.S. Perks, a dream needs to be handled delicately. This book is more an editor's nightmare!

Perks
10-10-2006, 03:31 AM
Ah. I guess I was wrong. Silly me.

pdr
10-10-2006, 03:41 AM
Is that a genuine comment or a miaou?

I didn't think you'd relinquish your favourable opinion so easily.

Soccer Mom
10-10-2006, 03:54 AM
I would have enjoyed it more with fewer characters to juggle. They were all just symbols and so I never connected. I need to like the characters and care about what happens to them. Allegory is fine in small doses, but this was way too much for my tastes.

I could have handled a few allegorical characters, but he lost me with Alobar and Kudra. They annoyed the snot out of me. And Priscilla was so pathetic that I didn't much care what happened to her.

I confess that I didn't understand quite a bit of it. Whale mask? Huh? Can someone explain to me what that was about?

Perks
10-10-2006, 03:56 AM
I didn't think you'd relinquish your favourable opinion so easily.It didn't appear we were dealing in opinions.

Perks
10-10-2006, 04:05 AM
It's funny how differently people can react to things. When I discussed this book the first time around, the majority of our group loved it. I wish I had been able to read it again and have it fresh in my mind for more point rebuttals, but I can't. All I remember is having a good time with it.

pdr
10-10-2006, 04:14 AM
just because I was very disappointed in this book and found it a load of verbal vomit doesn't mean that others will or that they cannot express their positive opinions.

If you had been brought up as I was in the educational tradition of forming opinions and debating them strongly then you would be putting forward reasons for your liking the book and being able to say 'Yes, but...' to my opinions. This way we could actually have debate about Tom Robbins and his book and not start sliding into attacking the person and not the point.

A snide 'Ah. I guess I was wrong. Silly me.' doesn't help people reading this thread to form their own opinions. A spirited 'Sorry, I disagree. I think xyz' would actually help others join in.

Perks
10-10-2006, 04:23 AM
pdr, I do agree with you fully. It makes it doubly interesting that you singled me out by name
P.S. Perks, a dream needs to be handled delicately. This book is more an editor's nightmare!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
to tell me that my opinion was wrong. It's not my lack of education that is preventing me from debating the particular points of the book with you. It's the fact that I haven't read it in a number of years and, unfortunately, can only remember my overall impressions.

I had intended to reread it and procrastinated because I thought I had it, but, alas, it was Even Cowgirls Get The Blues not Jitterbug Perfume. It's a double 'alas' because I didn't enjoy the other one.

pdr
10-10-2006, 04:38 AM
This board is very difficult to use for me.

If I answer a person's comment by name that is singling them out and is too personal?

Sorry, people, but my intention was to be friendly and answer the comment.

Is it a rule of this AW board that we must not mention a name in our posts? I only scanned the FAQs when I first joined up some years ago.

Again if I had wanted to call someone uneducated I would have said so in plain words in black and white. Please stop taking everything personally. I was brought up in one tradition where opinion forming and defending was valued and encouraged. That is what I meant. And I meant that if you had too you would understand and do it too.

You may take personally my remark about a snide comment. I don't like snide comments. I prefer out in the open, up front comments.

Okay, you haven't read the book for this round. You read it some years ago and enjoyed it.
Why? What is it you remember?

TrainofThought
10-10-2006, 04:51 AM
Yes I felt he overused metaphors and similies, but to me they were so off the wall that they were amusing. I 'got' many of the connections and it made me laugh that he chose them, surely knowing most readers would be lost. The quirkiness kept me reading, and laughing. Can you please offer a metaphor or similie that ‘you got’ that would be lost on most readers? A writer can be creative and off the wall, but there needs to be some connection. I am interested in understanding even one connection, so if you can offer a couple I’d appreciate it.

On page 316, he states, “The way the pedestrians were acting, the bees might have been Michael Jackson and Katharine Hepburn.” Why Michael and Katharine together? I understand Michael Jackson, but why Katharine Hepburn. It’s like he was coming down from a trip and threw a name in there.

I like different stories and quirkiness, John Irving is very good at it, but this one was written with too many drugs pumping through the veins.
Is there a place where AW members can donate books? That would be nice for members who want to get rid of because I would donate this one.

Perks
10-10-2006, 04:59 AM
I've already expressed my opinion of the book and lamented that I cannot discuss it in further detail. I enjoyed it for its quirks. I remember laughing and enjoying his semantic calisthenics.

I think perhaps you may be taking light sarcasm and calling out its stronger cousin, 'snide'. It is certainly acceptable to note, by name and/or quotation, another's comment. In this case, in my opinion, it invited a wry response. I'm not particularly bothered to disagree with you and I did not intend to appear combative. Just answering your points, I thought.

pdr
10-10-2006, 05:07 AM
thank you, Perks.

Yes, please could those of you who did understand the metaphors and similes explain them. I thought it was because it is not my culture that I was missing out on so many.

The Michael Jackson one had me boggling too. Images like that throw the reader right out of the book.

P.H.Delarran
10-10-2006, 05:17 AM
I think maybe the metaphors are easier if you take them for the bizarre picture they paint, and don't expect more. What kind of crowd would you have if both Jackson and Hepburn were there? It's an unexpected mix and I think that simply, that's the point. (although I'm answering this one off the cuff without the page in context in front of me.) I'll look up some that struck me and come back to this.
I can see where reading odd metaphors like this over and over throughout a book could be off-putting. I tend to like the odd and somehow it worked for me, made it fun.
I like Perk's term, 'semantic calisthenics'

Soccer Mom
10-10-2006, 05:33 AM
I didn't understand the whole thing about the whale mask. Can anyone explain that symbolism?

TrainofThought
10-10-2006, 05:43 AM
I didn't understand the whole thing about the whale mask. Can anyone explain that symbolism? I can't help you out there Soccer_Mom. I'm still trying to clear my head. How's your nephew? I'm assuming he is home with mom by now.

Soccer Mom
10-10-2006, 06:02 AM
Nephew is wonderful adjusting well. His big sister (who was two last month) isn't quite so thrilled with sharing Mommy. :D Now the real revenge begins. In a couple of years it'll be drum sets for both of them. heh. This sister once bought my boys maracas.

poetinahat
10-10-2006, 06:44 AM
pdr, surely you, as a writer, can find a way of expressing a negative opinion without insulting people who enjoyed the book. Your assertion about how Perks was or wasn't educated is extraordinarily presumptuous.

I'll suggest you try harder to play nice. I think Perks has been quite patient in dealing with some of your comments, which have been expressed in a far more grating manner than is necessary.

Note that I'm not suggesting you soften your opinion -- just be less abrasive.


This board is very difficult to use for me.

If I answer a person's comment by name that is singling them out and is too personal?

Sorry, people, but my intention was to be friendly and answer the comment.

Is it a rule of this AW board that we must not mention a name in our posts? I only scanned the FAQs when I first joined up some years ago.

Again if I had wanted to call someone uneducated I would have said so in plain words in black and white. Please stop taking everything personally. I was brought up in one tradition where opinion forming and defending was valued and encouraged. That is what I meant. And I meant that if you had too you would understand and do it too.

You may take personally my remark about a snide comment. I don't like snide comments. I prefer out in the open, up front comments.

Okay, you haven't read the book for this round. You read it some years ago and enjoyed it.
Why? What is it you remember?

ColoradoGuy
10-10-2006, 06:48 AM
I think maybe the metaphors are easier if you take them for the bizarre picture they paint, and don't expect more.
I agree. Robbins has always written like that, piling on tenuously connected metaphors in a sort of flight-of-ideas, manic style. Some of these are tossed off the cuff and not continued any further – sort of throw-away, self-consciously clever metaphors. Others are marched through the whole book, like the over-sized hitch-hiker’s thumb in Cowgirls, the labored sausage metaphors in Roadside Attraction, or the Camel cigarette pack in Woodpecker. I find Robbins fun to read at times, but overall he seems to reach too hard to be both amusing and profound. I think Jitterbug Perfume is the weakest of all of those. On the other hand, I suppose that I wouldn’t have read his books if I didn’t enjoy them on balance.

pdr
10-10-2006, 12:44 PM
What was that all about poetinahat?

You are barking up the wrong tree.

poetinahat
10-10-2006, 05:07 PM
Let's discuss this point further via PM, not in this thread. There's a book discussion going on here.

AmyBA
10-10-2006, 09:36 PM
I didn't understand the whole thing about the whale mask. Can anyone explain that symbolism?

I'm not sure I can shed any light on this either... I didn't read any symbolism into it. I thought Robbins was just using it to help illustrate what a creative, eccentric, free-spirit type Marcel was.

Here's a question: In an interview with Lawrence Gerald (http://www.sirbacon.org/4membersonly/robbins.htm), Robbins says, "Everyone uses language. Not everyone uses visual imagery. So people are willing to accept more from visual artists, because they are not messing around with their world as does a language artist."

How much validity is there to his statement? Would you have answered the question differently before reading the book?

P.H.Delarran
10-10-2006, 09:45 PM
Apparantly whale vomit has a bi-product which makes a good perfume base. Marcel seemed to want to stick with this natural product, whereas others in the company were happy with alternatives.
I agree that the mask was to show his creative quirkiness.

ColoradoGuy
10-10-2006, 10:01 PM
Robbins is referring to ambergris, which was used in perfume making for centuries.
http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/sci/A0846252.html

Soccer Mom
10-10-2006, 11:52 PM
Apparantly whale vomit has a bi-product which makes a good perfume base. Marcel seemed to want to stick with this natural product, whereas others in the company were happy with alternatives.
I agree that the mask was to show his creative quirkiness.

So whales are at least tangentially related to perfume. I guess that ties it in somewhat. Thanks.

I'm afraid if I had read that interview I would have run away before reading this book. I can't say I enjoyed it, but it did make me think.

That said, Robbins style is not my cup of tea. I don't mind some allegory in my story, but I need a story and characters that I love.

It seems like he tried to acheive too much in a single book. There were too many themes cluttering the landscape.

And he's a good friend of Leary? AH. That explains much.

pdr
10-11-2006, 04:11 AM
for the ideas about the images. Yes, I think I can understand the bizarre appeal. It's just that it doesn't seem to be working most of the time.

I think Robbins wanted the whale mask to be a link between the perfume and ecology so readers saw them as the perfume of life and the need for people to be careful about the natural world. BUT there was the argument about artificial ambergris and natural ambergris too which I didn't think quite tied in with the first one!

Sigh! I found it rather perplexing.

Soccermum's right. This is a plum pudding of a book with far too many plums in it.

Soccer Mom
10-11-2006, 04:14 AM
I vote for trying a genre book next. It doesn't have to be something I normally read. I would enjoy a lively discussion regarding what makes something fit within a genre and what makes is unique within its genre.

AmyBA
10-11-2006, 03:06 PM
Sounds like a great idea to me, Soccer Mom-- I'll start a new thread later today for suggestions if everyone's game.

At the risk of beating a nearly-dead horse, so, do you think if Robbins toned down the flashy parts and strengthened his character development, there might be the bones of a good story here, underneath it all?

Soccer Mom
10-11-2006, 05:43 PM
Yes, I do think that I would have enjoyed it more if he had focused on fewer characters and more on the modern day interactions. Personally I found the Parisian parfumers and the ladies from New Orleans much more interesting characters than Alobar and Kudra. Did we need all that background to enjoy the story? I didn't.

I would have enjoyed it more if he had narrowed the scope of his themes and chosen one or two to follow as opposed to thirty.

I can see an interesting story in the book, but ultimately it left me cold. For Robbins fans, I'm sure the journey and tone is what makes it compelling, but I just can't care about a story unless I care about the people.

P.H.Delarran
10-11-2006, 06:21 PM
At the risk of beating a nearly-dead horse, so, do you think if Robbins toned down the flashy parts and strengthened his character development, there might be the bones of a good story here, underneath it all?
Absolutely. This was the wildest ride I've ever taken in a book. I've been told to read his 'Skinny Legs and All'. I do expect it to be wild, but hopefully a little more pulled together.

pdr
10-12-2006, 04:35 AM
This could have been a wonderful book and a great story if only Robbins had had the discipline to choose one theme and stay with it.

He'd have had to improve his characterisation too but with fewer he might have managed.

TrainofThought
10-12-2006, 05:07 AM
At the risk of beating a nearly-dead horse, so, do you think if Robbins toned down the flashy parts and strengthened his character development, there might be the bones of a good story here, underneath it all? I think if he focused on a few characters and discarded the mumble jumble there could have been a good story. The story is strange, but analyzing it helps me to know what not to do. It is a learning experience.

Unique
10-12-2006, 05:30 AM
Here's a question: In an interview with Lawrence Gerald (http://www.sirbacon.org/4membersonly/robbins.htm), Robbins says, "Everyone uses language. Not everyone uses visual imagery. So people are willing to accept more from visual artists, because they are not messing around with their world as does a language artist."



Hmm...On first glance I'd say that's true. But when I stopped to think about it - don't all fiction writers try to create pictures in the minds of their readers?

I can't think of any books off hand but maybe some authors tell their stories so you hear them being told but most of my favorite books play out like movies in my head. I see the story. I'm in the story - rather like a voyeur following the characters around and watching them. That's how I read fiction.

In this story I kept falling out of it and having to pick myself up and try to figure out what the characters were doing. (Hey, where'd you guys go?) And not just changing from place to place. That's fairly common. You're in NO with one set, then back to France with another set. My falling out was with the same characters in the same scene. It seemed like I was watching them do one thing then all of a sudden they were doing something else.

If this was supposed to be a social commentary about society at large, the environment, and yada, yada...well, I must have missed that. If someone writes trying to deliver a message - just give me the message. Or better yet - write non-fiction. I'll be sure to see the message then.

Kudra
05-31-2007, 10:11 AM
Wow. I'm quite surprised to find so many negative reactions to this book. Even though I felt that Robbins was trying a bit too hard in places, and the ending left a lot to be desired, I really enjoyed this book.

Of the characters, Kudra was my favorite. Maybe because she was Indian and her struggles struck a personal chord.

1. Jitterbug Perfume was originally published in 1984. How well does the book hold up more than 20 years later? Do you think people will still be reading it in another 20 years?

I think the book holds up very well today. I certainly enjoyed it, and it seemed like a timeless piece of writing to me.

2. What's your opinion of Robbins' writing style? Strengths and weaknesses?

He's too long-winded sometimes, and at places it seems like he's trying too hard to be clever, but most of the time, he IS clever. I particularly liked how he's able to bring in controversial subjects into the story and talk about them through his characters without going all preachy.

3. Robbins touches on potentially controversial subjects like sex, death, religion, and individualism. Did you find anything about the book objectionable?

Nope, absolutely not.

4. How do you feel about the characters?

I liked Kudra. I wanted to know what was happening with Alobar, but I agree that the characters could have been more fleshed out. I didn't really care about the rest.

5. Robbins relies heavily on humor; how successful are his attempts at being funny?

Not very. I've heard reviewers say they laughed out loud several times. I didn't laugh at all. Not once.


6. In an interview with January Magazine, Robbins says, "I think biographical information can get in the way of the reading experience. The interchange between the reader and the work. For example, I know far too much about Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut. Because I know as much as I do about their personal lives, I can't read their work without this interjecting itself." Would you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Do you like to know a lot about the author of a book you're reading? Does the author's biography matter to you as a reader?

Yep, I agree. That's why I try never to find out about the authors I like to read. I don't want to know what assholes they are in their personal lives, because then I'd lose respect and not want to buy their books. So I base my judgments solely on the writing.


This was my first Tom Robbins' book, given to me by a friend. I'm pretty sure I'll be reading more.

P.H.Delarran
05-31-2007, 06:30 PM
Nice to see another response.
I'm still planning on reading him again.

juniper
04-15-2013, 10:51 AM
Ha, almost 6 years since someone talked about this book! I'm currently reading it and enjoying it / not enjoying it. I'm losing track of things ... and his far-reaching metaphors throw me sometimes.

This one had me going "Whaaaat?" "A blush stained Madame Devalier in the way that debits color the ledgers of a failing business."

If Madame Devalier had been an accountant, or a CPA or tax attorney or some other business person who worked with ledgers, that would have worked for me. But she makes perfume! The only other person with her at the time is her assistant, who also makes perfume.

That metaphor seemed like such an unnatural connection that it really made me just wonder - how did that get past editing? Seemed like a true first-draft notion, that should have been replaced on second look.

A few other things like that are making it a little difficult for me to enjoy, although it does have an appealing dreamlike quality.

I'm not quite halfway through. Will probably finish. Anyone else read this recently?