Book Reviews

Tom Robbins
Harper Collins Publishers

You can buy Tibetan Peach Pie on Amazon here.

This is not an autobiography. God forbid! Autobiography is fueled by ego and I could make a long list of persons whose belly buttons I’d rather be contemplating than my own. Anyway, only authors who are household names should write autobiographies, and not only is my name infrequently tumbled in the lapidary of public consciousness, but those rare homes in which it’s spoken with any regularity are likely under police surveillance.

                                           from  Tibetan Peach Pie

For Tom Robbins, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

Robbins burst onto the literary scene in 1971, with the publication of Another Roadside Attraction, which quickly became a cult favorite, a made-to-order book for hormonely inspired college kids, eager to see how far they could stretch the boundaries of authority.

This was followed by Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Still Life With Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, and other imaginative serio-comic novels with philosophical undercurrents.

So it comes as no surprise that his memoir is written in the same style: wacky, quirky and irreverent, mischievous but without malice. If it doesn’t read like a normal memoir, “that may be because I haven’t exactly led what most normal people would consider a normal life.” This is called an understatement.

He grew up in Virginia during the Depression. From early childhood he had two deep and lifelong passions. One was for the opposite sex (“Her name was Bobbi. She was eleven—an ‘older woman.’”) His other passion was for words and writing: “I started writing fiction at the age of five. Hardly an overnight success, however, I didn’t get published until I was seven”—in the school newspaper. Becoming “a literary lion in the second grade,” Robbins knew that he wanted to be a writer.

As in his novels, he comes up with madcap metaphors that often hijack his sentences, such as describing the summer he reached puberty “when testosterone first barreled into my plasma, piloting a red speedboat and scattering large pieces of childhood in its wake.”

He recounts experiences from eighty-plus years—his stint in the air force, his several marriages, his travels and his friends—but without reflecting much on them. An exception is when he writes about his experience using LSD, fulfilling “a vague yet poignant desire to experience, up close and personal, the fundamental essence of reality.”

From a life filled with so much merriment and mayhem, it was that experience that would prove to be “the most rewarding day of my life, the one day I would not trade for any other.”

Robbins wrote his memoir, he tells us, without referring to any notes or journals (he never kept them), but believes he has “a pretty good memory and can at a moment’s notice name the lineup of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers and all but one or two of my ex-wives.”

Ah, well, we remember the important things.

 


This review first appeared in The Columbia River Reader (October 15-November 14, 2014.) Reprinted with permission.

You can buy Tibetan Peach Pie on Amazon here.