Still Life with Woodpecker
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Still Life with Woodpecker

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  46,684 ratings  ·  1,967 reviews
Still Life with Woodpecker is a sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published April 9th 2001 by Oldcastle Books (first published 1980)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Gus
Nothing against the man himself, but if Tom Robbins' writing and I were locked in a room together, and I was ankle-chained to the wall with my only means of escape to saw through my own leg, I would do so, then use the severed limb to happily beat to death Tom Robbins' writing before I dragged my ass out of there.
Rebecca
Who knows how to make love stay?
1. Tell love you are going to the Junior's Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if love stays, it can have half. It will stay.
2. Tell love you want a memento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a mustache on your fac...more
Colinski
Aug 18, 2008 Colinski rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody
Let me first tell you that I dislike modern jazz. You know the type: the free-form kind that only musicians can appreciate. I dislike it because it abandons all the structural qualities that I find appealing about old-fashioned jazz and is all about technical skill. What does this have to do with this book? The comparison came to me early on in reading this book which I begrudgingly forced myself to finish: I liken modern jazz to watching a performer masturbate musically on stage, getting off on...more
Rapunzel210
I first read this book in 1981 or thereabouts when I was married to my first husband. I had three children and felt completely trapped in a dangerously toxic, dead-end relationship that I saw no way out of.

Still Life with Woodpecker, more than anything else, is about CHOICE. About using it, about the freedom it offers, and about being willing to accept the consequences for exerting it. Sometimes I would be reading and have to close the book up suddenly because I couldn't handle the implications...more
Giambus
Jun 27, 2007 Giambus rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: a yard sale
I learned that if you have red hair you can write a crappy book and people will love it. I could have written this book in college.

The jokes were forced, the premise was too ridiculous to take seriously, and the payoff was weak, weak, weak. It was little more than a sophmoric creative writing assignment taken, like, way too far.

Plus if you can't write female characters to be anything more then complex sexual fantasies you should just not even try. I got the sense that the lengthy passages disc...more
Jploof
Oct 01, 2007 Jploof rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who love each other
"The most important thing is love," said Leigh-Cheri. "I know that now. There's no point in saving the world if it means losing the moon."
Leigh-Cheri sent that message to Bernard through his attorney. The message continued, "I'm not quite 20, but, thanks to you, I've learned something that many women these days never learn: Prince Charming really is a toad. And the Beautiful Princess has halitosis. The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and onl...more
Mariah
My favorite book of all time. I used a quote from this book in my wedding vows. It is funny, silly, and romantic.
Dale
The ninth book I read on my commute in 2007. I read this right after Ulysses, as kind of a palate-cleanser, since Tom Robbins is pretty far from James Joyce. But I kept thinking as I read this one about how both it and Ulysses were so very much products of their respective times - Ulysses of Ireland in the 1930s, and Still Life with Woodpecker of the U.S. in the 1970s.

The example that amused me the most is that, in SLWW, a certain famous figure is held up with great reverence and love ... and th...more
Taylor K.
Jul 22, 2014 Taylor K. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like "quirk," people who want to get swept up in something a little unordinary
Edit, Jan 2013: Funny story, I'm one of those people who totally loves Tom Robbins now, in part for a bunch of the reasons that I decided I didn't like him originally. What can I say, tastes change, and I've come to respect him a ton--in part, for his incredible similes/metaphors, which are worth anyone who ever wants to write picking up one of his books for.

Original review:
I'm not one of those people who hates or loves Tom Robbins, which I guess puts me in the minority.

I'm a redhead, thus why I...more
Leo Jacobowitz
As my lack of stars indicate, this book is ok. However, the Best thing about the book is the following quote - one of the most influential in my life:

"How can one person be more real than any other? Well, some people do hide and others seek. Maybe those who are in hiding--escaping encounters, avoiding surprises, protecting their property, ignoring their fantasies, restricting their feelings, sitting out the Pan pipe hootchy-kootch of experience--maybe those people, people who won't talk to redne...more
Kristin
gotta say... this is my favorite book of all time, expertly written... more like prose than an actual novel. who can resist a book whose first sentence is "if this typewriter can't do it, then fuck it, it can't be done!"
Chris
When my brother gave me this book for Christmas, he told me to "drink in the writing." Or something to that effect. Whatever it was, he heaped praise on Robbins' use of language. Several people in my family had read this, or some other Tom Robbins book, and they all enthusiastically agreed that reading him was a pleasure unto itself, above and beyond the enjoyment one gets from reading the actual story. I was promised an actual Reading Experience, and that promise was fulfilled in spades.

Reading...more
Chloe
Jan 05, 2009 Chloe rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The Lovers, The Dreamers & Me
Shelves: fiction
Oh my goodness, how is that I always forget how much I love Tom Robbins? The man knows how to turn a phrase that is without equal in modern literature. If my funny bone could write love songs they would sound like him.

I find it hilarious that he writes constant asides about the typewriter that he's using, the Remington SL3. I can't tell if this is because the asides are actually funny or if it's because I have a long and storied history with that same beast of a machine. When I was young, eight...more
carri farrand
this was the first robbins i ever read. i loved this book. the story is ridiculously wonderful. his writing style is light and fast. this is easy and fun stuff.

i do love how i was introduced to this book (and to the author). the summer before i moved to dc i was living in oklahoma city, living with my best friend and working for an environmental group going door to door collecting money and signatures. we usually traveled from okc to tulsa which also meant a meal on the road. one particular day...more
MJ Nicholls
Tonight I feel generous. Tonight I feel enchanted by the purpose of the moon. So tonight, I will allow four glittering stars to orbit this frustrating crank of a novel. Without parroting the sensible assertions from the hundred or so Goodreaders, let me be brief and say: I agree, in part, with every criticism and praise in some small way about Robbins. I do. And yes, this book does contain sentences like:

As he throbbed in her throat, pumping jet after jet of that steamy translucent mucilage with...more
Adam Floridia
I expected crazy-weird-awesome:

description

So far it's:

description

To sum up, I looked forward to reading this and walked away very disappointed.




Not sure if I'll ever bother writing a proper review or quoting any of the god-awful similes, stupidly-inane tangents, or sententiously-prosaic truths.
Louisa
Dec 09, 2013 Louisa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This book is much ado about nothing but at the same time it's about most things. Confused? So am I. But in a good way. For the first 150 pages I was on the edge of my seat, enjoying the wild ride and random bursts of wisdom that is Tom Robbins. It's all fun and games until things get a bit stale and dull, at least that's how it ended up for me. Still worth the read, but be warned, you need to put away your logic/reason and just go with it.
Nathan
Robbins has one of the most unique narratives I've encountered. He's genuinely funny, witty, and shares a penchant for the absurd and punny. He's a wordsmith and throughout his writing one can't help but feel that he's full-force funneling a rabid faucet of clever and meaningless musings constantly streaming through his hyper-associative mind.

Woodpecker is, at heart, a take on a classic fairytale story disguised in an absurd set of characters and an abnormal setting. Robbins leads one through h...more
Meika
Oct 27, 2008 Meika rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Meika by: sarah
I've been trying to think of how to review this book, but the only things that come to mind are metaphors for other senses... it's hue saturation is high, and it's gritty, bluesey and edgy the way Led Zeppelin is Metal.

The plot tends towards the absurd, which allows the story to perform some philosophical acrobatics without giving into the pedantic or pretentious. Robbins tends to express these sorts of things in dichotomy: outlaws as opposed to criminals, activism as opposed to idealism, ideas...more
David Hartzheim
Take a couple dozen or so running gags that have several hundred punchlines, add a liberal dose of rum-logic philosophy and you get the basic structure of Still Life With Woodpecker. Tom Robbins is a sit-down comedian with mostly good material. Maybe his schtick would get old, but he knows how to keep throwing in zingers at just the right times. Besides, how could you not like a writer who comes up with similes like “as ruddy and indiscreet as a plastic sack full of hickeys,” “ ...the stars were...more
Jasmine
I just realized that Greg gave me a default recommendation...

I don't know the book is good though. It is tough to thing of what to say about this book. It is a giant joke, but it also is pseudo philosophical, and then it also seems to be trying to give some kind of weird advice.

Spoilers!!! not. The last line that has nothing to do with the story is "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." A perfect example of this weird advice thing that Robbins does without telling you anything about t...more
Julz
A relative who rarely reads fiction recommended this author, so I knew he had to be good. I'll definitely read him again. Robbins manages to skewer just about every facet of American society all while developing a colorful cast of characters who manage to become compelling in spite of being beyond cartoonish.

It's one of those books that makes you wonder what the author was smoking, so you have to be in the mood for the absurd when you read it. If you're never in that mood, beware, because, as Ro...more
Kendra Kettelhut
It has been a long time since I read this, but I do know is that I loved it.
Ariel
Reading this book is like being invited over to someone's house for dinner, and finding that they're serving you a buffet of artisanal maraschino cherries they've made. At first you're like, "Oh, how whimsical!" Then you're like "Oh, and you flavored this one with cardamom! How clever of you." And then you're like "Oh, another one? I really shouldn't..." and as your host just keeps piling on artisanal maraschino cherries they crafted from hand telling you how each one corresponds to an orgasm by...more
Emily
Who knows how to make love stay? (#1 is a Valentine's Day tradition for my parents.)

1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if love stays, it can have half. It will stay.

2. Tell love you want a momento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt h...more
Kasia

I read this book as a teenager and I loved it. I loved the style and the language and the story, the irreverent rebelliousness. Then I read it again after college and, while I still enjoyed it, a lot of things bothered me. I don't like his sexual objectification of his female characters. Many of his books seem to be wishful thinking sexual fantasies on the part of the author. And gratuitous descriptions of breasts and bodily fluids do not exactly constitute character development. Now I think of...more
Anupriya
Can't believe that it's a 30 year old unconventional book. It reads like a progressive novel of today. I was shocked to learn that Tom Robbins was born in 1936, because it seems so odd that a 78 year old man could have views that are so... abstract and whacky!
Still Life With Woodpecker talks of some strange relationships of the writer and his Remington SL3, of Woodpecker and his dynamites, of Guiletta and her toot, of Camel Cigarettes and solitude, of Princess and her Prince Charming, of Euro...more
Adrian Wade
There is, however, a similarity between juggling and composing on the typewriter. The trick is, when you spill something, make it look like part of the act. pgix

"Neoteny" is "remaining young," and it may be ironic that it is so little known, because human evolution has been dominated by it. Humans have evolved to their relatively high state by retaining the immature characteristics of their ancestors. Humans are the most advanced mammals--although a case could be made for the dolphins--because t...more
Angie
Feb 19, 2008 Angie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: redheads, people who used to meditate religiously but now feel kind of sheepish about that
Tom Robbins is Tom Robbins is Tom Robbins, and you like him or you don't; I do. There is something about the stoner-cowboy vernacular of the thirty-something 1970s-era male that I find endlessly endearing. It is this vernacular that I am holding responsible for this book's tendency to remind me, constantly and throughout my entire reading of it, of The Executioner's Song. I thought that maybe it was the fact that the main characters of the two stories shared a lot of similar traits, like bad tee...more
Mark Juric
I'll admit that I was a Tom Robbins virgin prior to this, and I hope this was an appropriate introduction. I like a writer who can write about sex without relying on the florid or metaphoric. One like Robbins, who can treat the subject on the same level as a dynamite-wielding terrorist and the fiery temper of redheads (as it so deserves) is someone worth paying attention to.

I'll also admit that it took me a while to get through the book. It's not that it didn't grab me, but at times it meandered...more
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One of my favorites... 9 95 Dec 01, 2013 08:05AM  
The Bookhouse Boys: Still Life With Woodpecker Schedule/Discussion 44 19 Sep 17, 2011 08:17AM  
  • Trout Fishing in America/The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster/In Watermelon Sugar
  • The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History
  • Slapstick or Lonesome No More!
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang
  • Just a Couple of Days
  • The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
  • Geek Love
  • Turtle Island
  • Clown Girl
  • Fool on the Hill
  • Slaves of New York
  • Run With the Hunted: A Charles Bukowski Reader
  • Galactic Pot-Healer
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Thomas Eugene Robbins (born July 22, 1936 in Blowing Rock, North Carolina) is an American author. His novels are complex, often wild stories with strong social undercurrents, a satirical bent, and obscure details. His novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976) was made into a movie in 1993 directed by Gus Van Sant.

More about Tom Robbins...
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“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words "make" and "stay" become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” 1111 likes
“Who knows how to make love stay?

1. Tell love you are going to Junior's Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.

2. Tell love you want a momento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.”
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