Taylor K.'s Reviews > Still Life with Woodpecker

Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
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Jul 22, 14

bookshelves: fiction, own, the-power-of-love, favorites, surreality
Recommended for: People who like "quirk," people who want to get swept up in something a little unordinary
Read in March, 2009, read count: 1

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 chose this Robbins novel to start with. There, I admitted it.

The "plot," to put it broadly, is about a well-intentioned albeit naive redheaded "princess" who meets a redheaded self-obsessed "outlaw."

Reading Robbins reads a lot like talking to someone with ADD or on some kind of mind-altering substance. It's entertaining at times - probably moreso if you're on the same substance - and at other times, you really just wish they'd shut the fuck up.

Robbins' writing style is unique, that's for damn sure. After reading this, I'm pretty sure I've got him down pat. Give me a page from any other Robbins book, I bet you I could nail it. Here's the thing. Having a unique voice is important and all that, but it doesn't automatically make what they're writing worthwhile. In tandem with that voice, that personality, you have to know how to use it. You have to have some tact. Kurt Vonnegut, for example, kind of lives in his own world, and he uses that to his advantage, but he also knows how to use it to draw in those who are from other planets. Lester Bangs was crazy as fuck, but had a point hidden among his craziness. Robbins is definitely his own brand, but he doesn't give a flying fuck about making it palatable or accessible - which, on some level, I totally respect, but on another, I don't.

The level on which I don't respect his disregard for the reader is that good art, good creativity feels as though it has a purpose, as if it makes a point, as if it reflects something about existence. This doesn't mean it has to be profound or ground-breaking, just that it captures something real, whether that reality is a feeling, a place, a time, a person, a... whatever. I think there's some kind of point hidden in here, but it's loose. It's reaching. It feels like he was just throwing a bunch of shit at a wall. You could argue Still Live with Woodpecker is about love, and that'd be sort of accurate, but the annoying thing is that the very subject he addresses is the one thing he's conventional about (I don't want to spoil it, but let's just say I found the ending/basic plot a little drab), whereas he chooses to toss convention in every other regard. He puts his personal stamp on everything except the one thing that could really use it. He reminds me of a guy who tries really hard to be funny, really hard to be profound, and it's not that he isn't funny or profound, just that because he's trying so damn hard, all of the failed efforts distract from the times he nails it.

All that said, Still Life with Woodpecker has its attractions. I can see the appeal. Because Robbins' writing is so intricately connected to his personality, it possess a certain level of charm, it's fun to get lost in somebody else's world for awhile, even if you wouldn't really want to live there, and Robbins, at the very least, can certainly draw you in. He does make some interesting points/arguments here, but unfortunately he's more of a smash and grab kind of guy and doesn't really develop any of them. I can't help but feel like this would have been a better book if he had taken what's here to an editor, who would have, undoubtedly, pointed out his strongest points and had them focus on those. But Robbins' writing style is crazy - he basically writes a sentences as many times as he needs to until he thinks it's perfect, then moves on to the next, with no consideration as to what came before it or to what comes after it. He also apparently never goes back to edit. When it's done, it's done. I knew this before I read this book, and it totally shows. If he had any kind of editing, if he had any kind of pre-thought as to where he was going, he'd probably be a great writer. But maybe that's just the editor in me.

This is, admittedly, the first book of his I've read. But I get a strange feeling that he's one of those, you've read one you've read 'em all kinds of authors. I'll probably pick up one of his better known works, just to see if I get more of what the fuss is about, but it'll be awhile.
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Reading Progress

03/04/2009 page 209
75.45%

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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s.penkevich Great stuff, this was my favorite Robins. I like the progression of your ideas, how you lay out your issues with him, but came back to show why you now love him.


message 2: by Taylor K. (last edited Apr 12, 2013 12:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Taylor K. s.penkevich wrote: "Great stuff, this was my favorite Robins. I like the progression of your ideas, how you lay out your issues with him, but came back to show why you now love him."

Thank you! In hindsight, when I read this I think there were some outside factors (namely, the person who introduced me to Robbins) that influenced my take on his writing - and also, probably, where I was at in life. I have been wanting to re-read it after reading a few of his other works, cause it might be my favorite of his, also.


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