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Still Life with Woodpecker

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  67,864 ratings  ·  2,694 reviews
"Robbins's comic philosophical musings reveal a flamboyant genius."--People

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 conte
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Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 2003 by Bantam Books (first published October 1980)
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Holly If you are old enough to read "Twilight"............read this instead!
Rick Harsch As a male writer, I have to say that one of the great questions of literature for a man is how to make use of yet disguise the obsession that began…moreAs a male writer, I have to say that one of the great questions of literature for a man is how to make use of yet disguise the obsession that began around 13 or so (usually younger) with titties. We needn't be better than we are, but we need to find what's funny about ourselves as we are and use that to contibute humor and insight or just humor, but at least get the reader to say, 'Despite the obsession of a 13 year old with titties, the author...'(less)

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Average rating 4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  67,864 ratings  ·  2,694 reviews


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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
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Colinski
Mar 06, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  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
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
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Giambus
Jun 27, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Ariel
May 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Jploof
Sep 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Mariah
Aug 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite book of all time. I used a quote from this book in my wedding vows. It is funny, silly, and romantic.
Kristin Myrtle
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_P
I remember over the years, I would come across Still Life with Woodpecker every now and then in bookshops and book bazaars. Each time, I would take it in my hands, read the backcover and put it back on the shelve. I don't know why, although it seemed interesting to me, something always stopped me from buying it. Of course I was aware of all the praise about it but that is never enough for me to want to read a book.

I think I get why it became such a big success all over the world. Its romantic an
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Taylor
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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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
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Dale
Aug 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Chloe
Aug 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Lovers, The Dreamers & Me
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
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MJ Nicholls
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: merkins, novels
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
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carri farrand
May 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Madeline
4.5 stars

Tom Robbins captures my mind and imagination in his quirky, eccentric, bizarre, and outlandish story of a Princess and her love interest.

I actually went to the dictionary to look up the word : Quirky. "Quirky" means lovable because of your faults, not in spite of them.

The perfect word for this story.

Tom Robbins is in a class all his own. His humor is closely related to Carl Hiassen, Tim Dorsey, John Kennedy Toole in his classic buffoonery, "A Confederacy of Dunces." (By the way, is m
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Adam Floridia
Apr 28, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-star-books
I expected crazy-weird-awesome:

description

So far it's:

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

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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.
Nathan
Jul 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Bill
Mar 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh my goodness gracious where to begin with this one?

This thing was nuts, absolutely crazy ... or was it! I don’t know. It confused me, befuddled me, induced laughter and suppressed snickers at inopportune moments, made me cringe and blush at its crudeness and lewdness (over the years I’ve heard tons of street slang describing human genitalia but never before have I heard a vagina referred to as peachfish or peachclam), pushed me to reconsider 1970s U.S. history, conjured up images of Patty Hea
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Meika
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Julz
Apr 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
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Jasmine
Oct 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
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
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Kasia
Aug 06, 2007 rated it really liked it

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
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Kendra Kettelhut
It has been a long time since I read this, but I do know is that I loved it.
Amanda
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a love story. A beautiful kaleidoscope of a love story that brings two unlikely characters together: a modern-day princess and an outlaw (or terrorist, depending on whom you ask), and rotates in colorful pieces of activism, pyramids, cigarette packaging, red-headedness, and of course, the catalyst for a love story--sex. These elements weave together to reveal the answer to the questions "how do you make love stay?"

Robbins' lyrical prose yearns to be read aloud. The beauty of his phrasing
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Emily
Sep 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Vit Babenco
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Outlaws, like lovers, poets, and tubercular composers who cough blood onto piano keys, do their finest work in the slippery rays of the moon…”
But nevertheless outlaws are prone to fall in love…
A book no more contains love than a clock contains time… But a book may serve to measure love as a clock serves to measure time. And Still Life with Woodpecker is this kind of a book.
“A romantic, however, recognizes that the movement, the organization, the institution, the revolution, if it comes to that,
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Ariel
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had to force myself to finish this book. A lot of the writing was clever, and I did like how the plot was built around bizarre factoids, but I couldn't have cared less about the characters and found the tone irritating and smug. I kept wondering what drugs Robbins was on while he wrote it. Pot, cocaine, and mushrooms could all apply. There's also a cocky revelation at the end that Love is related to Mystery, a truth I did not need to read this book to understand.
Anna
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, social-life
how can love stay???

actually don't expect to find an obvious answer by reading this book, but you'll have a pleasant time, reading about every-day things that are around you but you never notice and, most importantly, you'll never imagined how intellectual and meaningful is a packet of camel cigarettes!!!! (Leigh-Cherry found the meaning of life by reading it!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
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One of my favorites... 12 117 Apr 25, 2019 08:06AM  
Book Club Discussion Prompts 1 7 Oct 26, 2018 10:33AM  
Booze & Book Club: Still Life with Woodpecker (General Discussion) 1 5 Jul 06, 2017 09:29PM  
The Bookhouse Boys: Still Life With Woodpecker Schedule/Discussion 44 34 Sep 17, 2011 08:17AM  

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4,998 followers
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.

“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.” 1428 likes
“It's never too late to have a happy childhood.” 1005 likes
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