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Another Roadside Attraction

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What if the Second Coming didn't quite come off as advertised? What if "the corpse" on display in that funky roadside zoo is really who they say it is - what does that portend for the future of western civilization? And what if a young clairvoyant named Amanda reestablishes the flea circus as popular entertainment, and fertility worship as the principal religious form of our high-tech age? Another Roadside Attraction answers those questions and a lot more. It tell us, for example, what the sixties were truly all about, not by reporting on the psychedelic decade but by recreating it, from the inside out. In the process, this stunningly original seriocomic thriller is fully capable of simultaneously eating a literary hot dog and eroding the borders of the mind.

366 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1971

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About the author

Tom Robbins

68 books6,362 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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,055 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,852 followers
August 16, 2020
The legend begins with the first epic strike of one of the most underrated and ingenious, both comedy and cutting criticism using, authors.

Do you know how he writes these unique pieces? Robbins is so obsessed and perfectionistic that he rewrites it, again and again, word for word, sentence for sentence, until it fits his standards and just continues after that. I´ve 2 to 3 other authors with similar, pedantic work schedules and techniques in mind, but can´t remember them, just that one called it a bit of self-torture and I don´t know if Robbins enjoys it or just exaggerates the hard fun element of the creative process.

This pumping of tears, sweat, and, hopefully just metaphorically, blood into the novels can be felt at each moment, it´s a very rare perfection of each dialogue, description, and, as a bonus, everything is interconnected and always leads to a satisfying end that shows how much detail has been invested in making it a multi layered reading experience. Wise dialogues and monologues change with long diatribes or introspectives of the characters and one often stops reading to think about the implications.

A bit of a warning here, Robbins is no Pratchett, a bit closer to Ruff and Robbins, but by far the most hardcore one, although there is Sharpe too, all together philosophical, funny, critical, and very explicit stuff. Especially the last element, both regarding sexual content and the indirect Chuck Norrisness of the action, are reasons for why people should first try a bit of his amazing, and in my case very tasty and nourishing, alphabet soup, because tastes are different.

It´s a bit of a plague or cholera situation, if Robbins would have written with less intensity, he could have multiplicated his sales, but then it would have lost its uniqueness, so it´s good that the didn´t self censor to conform the market forces.

Oh, I should possibly mention something about the novel too and not just drivel about the greatness of the author, so let´s roll with that. The strong female lead protagonist lives in a world of rebellion, revolution, and recommencement, lives free love, and owns, together with the other protagonists, quite any aspect of religion and politics that are messes. That´s the second reason why this one is not for everyone, because Robbins knows no subtle use of velvet gloves, but goes on full aggressive provocation and confrontation which can be interpreted as timeless social critic or blasphemy and dangerous demagogy, depending on the standpoint. I am of course jaying at it even stupider than usual, because it´s extraordinary vivisection of the flaws of our society I love to flame and troll against.

Robbins gets more entertaining, character based, and less deeply sarcastic in his following novels I would also call milestones and masterworks, especially in contrast to this often overrated, indie, beatnik authors who are just provoking to get the predictable bite reflexes of their opponents starting without being able to tell a great story or criticize the system in more complex ways than getting wasted, violent, or as perverted as possible. I deem many cult authors between completely overrated and trash, they were simply the first ones to write predecessors of average fringe pseudo philosophical extreme horror with some naughty words, a final reason why Robbins could be mistaken for such literature, as he has a similar cult reputation.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,465 reviews3,620 followers
January 10, 2023
The language of Another Roadside Attraction is lush and flowery while the plot is trippy and hallucinogenic.
The fact is, what I hated in the Church was what I hated in society. Namely, authoritarians. Power freaks. Rigid dogmatists. Those greedy, underloved, undersexed twits who want to run everything. While the rest of us are busy living – busy tasting and testing and hugging and kissing and goofing and growing – they are busy taking over.

Christianity has some hideous secrets and it has some ludicrous secrets and the ultimate secret of Christianity is hideously ludicrous.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
April 24, 2020
Evangelical Hippie Dippie-dom

I can remember this stuff; so by definition I suppose I wasn't there. But I must have been near enough to notice. Robbins’s modern (well, 1971) re-telling of the Gospel in the genre of the Age of Aquarius brings back memories of a softer, kinder time when all the world had to worry about was a crook named Nixon rather than a psychopath like Trump.

Not just the characters and their illicit herbal remedies, but Robbins’s baroque New Age language as well captures the mood of the day:
“Amanda and John Paul were seated on a painted log and garlanded with chrysanthemums that had been recently liberated from a suburban lawn. The lovers refused stew and wine but accepted bowls of tea. After toasts, Amanda's son—dressed in a tunic of rabbit fur and yellow brocade—was fetched from the nursery van to meet his new father and to kiss his mother good night.”

This was indeed an era of purported sensitivity and ‘mindfulness.’ Economics, for a brief period, seemed to lose its hold on the world. What mattered was that mysterious inner core touched by cheap drugs, garish clothes, and communal living. Life had become a search for “this arithmetic of consciousness that more simple men call the ‘supernatural’... Language grows a bit sticky in areas such as these... the realm of High Mystery”

Well, really it was about style: “it is style that makes us care,” says an intellectual hippie. Style, conformity to non-conformance, makes one cool. It is of course merely unlimited affectation on a budget. So religion gets a makeover. Still the same elements as the old one though: reality is somewhere else and it’s possible to think yourself there. Faith for the faithless.

The weirdest part of course is that back in the day it was the crazy hippies who were all about freedom from governmental authority and religious expression. By any definition they were evangelical, announcing the new Good News to the establishment. The red necks and other Deplorables were mainly into secular patriotism and the ‘projection’ of American power. Today, the evangelicals are the ones holding the guns and using them as well as the old time gospel to attack the establishment.

It strikes me as more than likely that the (by now) primeval call of hippiedom has transformed itself into the shouts at Trump rallies. How strange is the style of democratic politics - so variable, yet so constant in its evangelical political fervour.
October 20, 2018
Το βιβλίο αυτό γράφτηκε κατά κάποιο μαγικό και απερίγραπτο τρόπο για φιλελεύθερους στοχαστές,
που απολαμβάνουν λογοτεχνικές παραπομπές, κοινωνικές και πολιτιστικές παραλλαγές, πολιτική ιστορία, μεταξύ αναφορών σε πλήθος πληροφοριών που ποτέ δεν πιστεύατε πως θα είχατε πάρει, με βασικό σημείο αναφοράς τη θρησκεία.
Ο Ρόμπινς γίνεται θανατηφόρος και αξέχαστος με το καθολικό και βαθιά συναισθηματικό ταλέντο
με το οποίο μεταφέρει τις σκέψεις του συνδυαστικά με μια αναμφισβήτητη πρωτοτυπία μπορεί σίγουρα να αλλάξει κοσμοθεωρίες και να αναστήσει συνειδήσεις.

Πνευματική και σαρκική
κραυγή που εξολοθρεύει τα απίστευτα και συνδυάζει μια αξιοπρεπή ιστορία και μια καταπληκτική γνώση του κόσμου.

Διαβάζοντας όλο και περισσότερα απο τα έργα του συνειδητοποιώ διαισθητικά και εμπειρικά πως είναι ένας σαμουράι της πεζογραφίας.
Αυτός ο λογοτεχνικός σαμουράι συνδυάζει δυο βασικά κριτήρια προαπαιτούμενα για να δημιουργηθεί ένα φοβερό μυθιστόρημα: εξειδικευμένη πνευματική πεζογραφία και εξελικτική αφήγηση, με επικά όπλα προώθησης των συγγραφικών του δυνάμεων.
Τα εξωγήινα υπερόπλα της πένας του είναι οι παρομοιώσεις και οι μεταφορές που γίνονται τατουάζ στο δέρμα του νου και απαγορεύουν τις άτεχνες παλινδρομήσεις.
Οι ιστορίες του γεννιούνται απο ένα πονηρό φρικαρισμένο μυαλό και συνοψίζονται τέλεια σε μια δική τους καταπληκτική εγγενή λογική.

Ο Ρόμπινς είναι ένας μανιακός που μόνο να τον λατρέψεις επιτρέπεται.
Οτιδήποτε άλλο αποτελεί απλώς παρανόηση ή παρεξήγηση της θαυμαστής ιδιοφυΐας του.

Στο συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο,η ιστορία μας περιλαμβά��ει μια τσιγγάνα πριγκίπισσα, έναν ελεύθερο πνευματικά μάγο απο την Αφρική ή πιθανότατα απο την Ινδία, έναν επιστήμονα αιρετικής συνομοσιολογίας, έναν καλόγερο του έρωτα που προωθεί όνειρα και ναρκωτικά και το μουμιοποιημένο σώμα του Ιησού Χριστού,
άρτι αφιχθέν απο τις κατακόμβες του Βατικανού.
Όλοι μια παρέα, μαζί τους επίσης, ένας μπαμπουίνος που παίζει με τον Θορ, το παιδί της τσιγγάνας,του οποίου γεννήτορες είναι η αστραπή και ο κεραυνός.

Δεν μπορώ να πω κάτι περισσότερο.
Πρόκειται για έναν φιλοσοφικό οργασμό, με πολλά λογοτεχνικά χάδια, ζεστασιά, χιούμορ, ερωτική μυθολογία, ρητορική χαλιναγώγησης ορμέμφυτων ερεθισμών, αρχαίοτυπικά ερεθίσματα, μυσταγωγία, και ανθρωπολογική απόλαυση.

Ο Ρόμπινς εκτελεί θαύματα με λόγια!!

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Brian.
707 reviews354 followers
October 6, 2021
“History is a discipline of aggregate bias.”

“Another Roadside Attraction” is the first Tom Robbins novel I read, many years ago. I recall that read being a bit of a slog for me, and I had no desire to pick up any more Robbins.
Years later I was forced to read Robbins again, as another novel of his was a selection for my book club.

I fell. I fell hard.

Something had changed in the intervening years, and I really enjoy his work now. I have read all but 2 of his published texts, and they vary in terms of quality, but I have enjoyed all and been disappointed by none.

So I revisited this text…and it disappoints a bit. I see why it did not lead me to more Robbins all those years ago.

What is good about the book? The stuff that is usually good with Mr. Robbins: quirky and creative figurative language, some stunning writing (an especially good moment is on page 21 when he describes Native American culture thru the description of an Indian’s performance at a circus). The novel is intricately and cleverly plotted in a deceitfully simple manner. That aspect of the book is really well done. And Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” is even referenced! All those things equal awesome.

At the end of Part II the book kicks into high gear, for a moment. Then it slows down for too much discoursing and philosophy as it meanders into Part III and the introduction of a character I really did not like, Marx Marvelous. This character is a man who discounts all aspects of faith, a rational fool, and I think Robbins dislikes him as much as I do, but he lets him get away with too much in the text. This was Robbins' first novel and it shows. He had not yet learned how to weave philosophy and musings of a deeper nature seamlessly into the plot. For later books he did learn this skill.

Part 4 of the novel descends into tripe. Christianity is bad, all modern religion is a rip off of the far superior earth mother pagan religions of earlier times, and on and on. If I were stoned, and a stupid 20 year old, I’d dig it. This book was published in 1971 and is a product of its time.

Overall “Another Roadside Attraction” is a swipe at Christianity in the guise of a novel and too much philosophic digression to no narrative purpose. Like all Robbins I have read, there are interesting ideas presented, but they get lost in the mire of this book.

I’m so glad his work got better from here.
Profile Image for Bryon Cahill.
Author 12 books40 followers
March 21, 2008
Tom Robbins writes one sentence at a time. I read that in an interview once. He has a general outline or story arc for his books but he starts out by writing the first sentence, and then perfecting it. Once he is totally satisfied, he moves on to the second sentence and then perfects that one... and so on. I'm not sure if it's 100% true but reading his work certainly makes me believe it.

Another Roadside Attraction has always been in my top 5 of all time. Is there a way to mark that? Guess not. Oh well.
Profile Image for Jonathan Ashleigh.
Author 1 book118 followers
December 3, 2015
I enjoyed parts of this book and it did refrain from long tangents unlike many Tom Robbins books, but there was just too much silliness. Because of the content, I was hoping for a ridiculously cool ending and, because I am an atheist, I felt sort of let down.
Profile Image for Roula.
521 reviews147 followers
September 17, 2020
Νομίζω ότι η εποχή που έβρισκα cool και διασκεδαστικο τον Ρόμπινς, έχει περάσει... 😒
Profile Image for Έλσα.
516 reviews104 followers
October 30, 2020
Δε χρειάζεται να πω πάλι κάτι για τον Ρόμπινς! Η οξυδέρκειά του πλέον είναι πρόδηλη σε κάθε βιβλίο του! Κάθε επιλογή βιβλίου του αποτελεί αναγνωστικό οργασμό, μια έκρηξη αισθήσεων που δε θέλεις να τελειώσει. Νιώθω πως μπαίνω σε ένα σπίτι κ ανοίγοντας την πόρτα κάθε δωματίου βρίσκω κ ένα διαφορετικό παράδοξο για πολλούς αλλά τόσο παράφορα γοητευτικό για εμένα κόσμο.
Profile Image for Nora.
16 reviews3 followers
April 7, 2008
"There are three mental states that interest me. These are: one, amnesia; two, euphoria; three, ecstasy. Amnesia is not knowing who one is and wanting desperately to find out. Euphoria is not knowing who one is and not caring. Ecstasy is knowing exactly who one is - and still not caring."
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,528 reviews978 followers
July 29, 2021
In the morning there are signs of magic everywhere. Some archaeologists from the British Museum discover a curse. The natives are restless. A maiden in a nearby village has been carried off by a rhinoceros. Unpopular pygmies gnaw at the foot of the enigma.

Would we even recognize the Second Coming if it happened in our own back yard today? And would we chase Christ away again as a freak and as a radical anarchist as we did before? Tom Robbins offers us an iconoclastic eyewitness account about this momentous event in the history of Mankind, and explains why it will fail to make a splash in the collective consciousness of our modern society.

Our society gives its economy priority over health, love, truth, beauty, sex and salvation; over life itself. Whatsoever is given precedence over life will take precedence over life, and will end in eliminating life. Since economics, at its most abstract level, is the religion of our people, no noneconomic happening, not even the Second Coming, can radically alter the souls of our people.

Written with his signature elaborate, colourful and subversive style, the present novel showcases Robbins at his best right from his debut, cloaking his hard-hitting philosophical ideas in a humorous, playful and extravagant coat. The lost and so intensely bad-mouthed Flower Power and its underlying core philosophy of life is resurrected and offered as if on a plate as a viable alternative to the runaway train of economic-driven globalism and to the radicalization of dogmatic religion that mostly delivers global warming and sectarian wars.

Sure, they were somewhat loose in their sexual habits and sure they ingested a lot of drugs – a risky and foolish business – but they were very careful about not hurting other human beings; they practised – not believed in but practised – a live-and-let-live philosophy of tolerance and tenderness, they adhered to an almost severe code of ethics. Their protests and demonstrations, while they may have gotten out of hand at times, were never mindless acts of rebellion; they were aimed at improving conditions for all mankind.

This is structured as a comedy novel on purpose, not only as a vehicle for the author’s wild similes and provocative rants. Robbins considers the medium as the best way to unsettle his audience and make it become more open to novel ideas: something stand-up comedians like Richard Pryor or George Carlin might know something about. Not surprisingly, among the authors name-dropped in the novel, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan feature prominently. Christopher Moore, who wrote “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” might have been on the list if he was active a few decades earlier.

The clown is a creature of chaos. His appearance is an affront to our sense of dignity, his actions a mockery of our sense of order. The clown (freedom) is always being chased by the policeman (authority). Clowns are funny precisely because their shy hopes lead invariably to brief flings of (exhilarating?) disorder followed by crushing retaliation from the status quo. [...] Consider Jesus as a ragged, nonconforming clown – laughed at, persecuted and despised – playing out the dumb show of his crucifixion against the responsible pretensions of authority.

The common link between these authors may be their conviction that modern man needs more than hard science and a well-stocked larder in order to function. Somebody needs to cater to his spiritual needs, in the role classically filled by the Church with such disastrous results.

Now, suppose we view the Church as the hunting wasp, its stinger being represented by the nuns and priests who teach it in schools. And let us view the pupils as the paralized prey. The egg that is injected into them is the dogma, which in time must hatch into a larva – personal philosophy and religious attitude. This larva, as that of the wasp, eats away from within, slowly and in a specialized manner, until the victim is destroyed. That is my impression of parochial education.
Public secular education is only a little less thorough in its methods and only a little less deadly in its results.

An institution that rejects progress and tries to enforce abusive laws rooted in prejudice and in the desire for control of its flock through dubious rewards in an afterlife or and equally dubious punishments for perceived sins is hardly the safe harbour for the Second Coming. It’s far more likely that He would rather come down in a rainy, richly forested and quiet back-country in the Pacific NorthWest.

Christ, the core symbol of Western religious tradition, is unchanged and unchanging, but we have lost sight of him in the buffeting and confusion and must be trained to recognize the Christ Idea again, albeit in the context of complex Space Age technology rather than a simple agrarian arrangement.


I noticed that all I wrote so far is about the ideas promoted in the novel, while most of the thrill of the ride was in meeting the Apostles of this Second Coming. The intellectual provocation of the debate is nothing to sneer at, in particular the talent of Robbins to make editorial rants sound funny and incisive, but I am myself a sort of late-bloomer hippie guy and I was thrilled to meet Amanda, the Earth-Mother figure, and her husband John Paul Ziller, a musician-magician and world traveller, alongside their friend Plucky Purcell, a drug-dealing anarchist, and the chronicler of the events Marx Marvellous, an academic researcher out of his depth when dealing with people instead of statistical data. An impresario named Nearly Normal Jimmy and Mon Cul, a trained baboon liberated from a medical laboratory that acts as a babysitter for Baby Thor, complete the cast.

About thirteen months ago, John Paul Ziller married a pregnant gypsy, bought two garter snakes and a tsetse fly and, on the Seattle-Vancouver highway, opened a roadside zoo.

The novel first invites the readership to meet the main actors, than look at the location in the Skagit Valley before weaving a crazy plot involving assassin monks in a secret forest fort near Humtulips, the migration of monarch butterflies, the lost history of Captain John Kendrick, the catacombs of Vatican City and a huge cardboard model of a hotdog.
It all sounds pretty weird on paper, and that is even before I go into details about the Apostles bohemian lifestyle, but let’s not be too hasty in frowning upon these people:

There is no such thing as a weird human being. It’s just that some people require more understanding than others.

Understanding Amanda is easy: born into an upper middle class academic family, she has chosen to follow her gypsy heart instead of her parents expectations and to love without restrictions imposed by society. She’s a vegetarian who forages in the forest for edible mushrooms and has a side-business as a magic ball fortune-teller.

“I’m a gypsy in spirit only,” she confessed. “I travel in gardens and bedrooms, basements and attics, around corners, through doorways and windows, along sidewalks, up stairs, over carpets, down drainpipes, in the sky, with friends, lovers, children and heroes; perceived, remembered, imagined, distorted and clarified.”

John Paul Ziller has had a more adventurous life prior to opening his roadside zoo: expeditions to Africa and Tibet, a fortune made in innovative musical instruments and popular if esoteric music records, fame from his magic tricks. Ziller is a non-conformist and an agent provocateur.

Ziller had the stink of Pan about him.

Pan is of course the central character of the other Tom Robbins novel I’ve read. “Jitterbug Perfume” revisits some of the themes first presented in this debut novel we’re discussing here, but in my opinion is even better (and wilder)

Pan represented the union between nature and culture, between flesh and spirit. Union, man. That’s why we old-timers hated to see him go.

Plucky Purcell is a former professional athlete turned drug dealer after a field injury. He stands for action instead of words.

Something in his nature has always been intolerant of authority, especially when it is violently imposed upon those who seem neither to need it or want it – as is usually the case.

So let’s allow Amanda, John Paul and Plucky tell the story of their roadside zoo / hamburger stand by the side of the road between Seattle and Vancouver. You might be surprised at how much of the world can be explained with a dead tse-tse fly, a flea circus, a couple of garter snakes, a baboon and a dead body in the pantry.

Whether meaningful or meaningless, the game of life is there to be played.


Odds and ends that got left out from my review, but I would still like to preserve for future reference. On the fascination and significance of the travelling show:

There was a time when the Americans stayed put. For the majority of them, journeys were short and few. Consequently, their live entertainment came to them. The circus, the carnival, the dog-and-pony show, the wild West extravaganza, the freak show, the medicine wagon, the menagerie, brought to the towns and villages on their muddy itineraries glimpses of worlds which the sedentary folks had never visited.

On the relativity of history:

Hardly a pure science, history is closer to animal husbandry than it is to mathematics in that it involves selective breeding. The principal difference between the husbandryman and the historian is that the former breeds sheep or cows or such and the latter breeds (assumed) facts. The husbandryman uses his skills to enrich the future, the historian uses his to enrich the past. Both are usually up to their ankles in bullshit.

On the exaggerated hatred for religion, or intransigence in general:

One cannot hate society, because within society there are loving and lovable individuals. Similarly, it wasn’t the Church I hated, because the Church contained the bravery and enlightenment of many individual priests and nuns and saints.
The fact is, what I hated in the Church was what I hated in society. Namely, authoritarians. Power freaks. Rigid dogmatists. Those greedy, underloved, undersexed twits who want to run everything.

On freedom and those same authoritarians:

The only stable society is the police state. You can have a free society or you can have a stable society. You can’t have both. Take your choice.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,049 reviews4,118 followers
September 3, 2010
Tom Robbins was recommended to me aeons ago by a friend (now an occasional friend). I confess a little disappointment with Another Roadside Attraction, but the depth and range of ideas explored in the book is amazing.

I loved the ludicrous metaphors, the freewheeling insanity of language, the satirical humour and the intelligently argued discourses on the death of religion.

On a craft level, I felt the plot could have used a huge pair of scissors, and many of the characters suffered from having the same voice, or the same habit of launching into erudite philsophical treatises for no reason.

So with a little strimming this could have been a classic. It certainly packs a mean wallop and sits pretty on the bookshelves of athiests and agnostics alike.

Profile Image for Erasmia Kritikou.
285 reviews97 followers
December 30, 2019
Εγω ήμουνα γκρουπι πρώτης γραμμής του Ρομπινς, και, η γραφή του μου άλλαξε τη ζωη, εκει στα 16 με τον Τρυποκάρυδο και ολα τα άλλα του, αλλά μάλλον μεγάλωσα (;) αλλαξανε και οι εποχές, δεν ξέρω..

Απο μενα ειναι 3,5 αστέρια και το υπόλοιπο μισό τιμής ένεκεν
Profile Image for Takisx.
216 reviews48 followers
August 21, 2018
τι να εξηγώ και τι να ομολογήσω, για αυτόν τον Μικρό θεούλη. Οτι και να πω θα μοιάζει υπερβολή, αρα του δίνεις
5 αστέρια κι αφήνεις τον επόμενο, αν και εφόσον υπάρξει, να εξηγήσει τα ανεξήγητα Θαύματα
Profile Image for David.
227 reviews32 followers
January 29, 2009
What a book! I honestly can’t believe it myself, but this will be my third five-star rated book in a row. A cousin of mine sent me Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume for Christmas, and then a co-worker advised me to read Another Roadside Attraction, describing Robbins as “C.S. Lewis on mushrooms.” That seemed interesting, so I picked up the book and started reading it. Immediately, it seemed reminiscent of the works of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea (most notably, The Illuminatus Trilogy). And it took about 100 pages to get into the book, but then it sucks you in and takes you on a wild ride.

It’s a hard one to summarize, but I’ll give it the old college try. A newly-married couple, John Paul Ziller and Amanda, decide to open up a hot dog and juice stand on the side of a road. The stand is just another roadside attraction, complete with a flea circus and a collection of snakes. They have with them a baboon by the name of Mon Cul and a child, Baby Thor. Ziller is a legendary magician/musician, while Amanda really digs the old religions of Tibet and China. She experiments with trances and yoga a lot. A friend of theirs, Plucky Purcell, corresponds with them via air mailed letters for a good portion of the story, and his own tale is too crazy to describe in this little blog post. And finally, Marx Marvelous, a sensitive scientist who has a hunch that the Zillers will help him on his anti-religious quest, shows up unexpectedly for a job interview at the hot dog and juice stand. When these characters meet up together, a lot of crazy stuff happens.

This one is really good - be patient when you begin the story and let is carry you through to the end.

5 Stars. 337 pages. Published in 1971.
Profile Image for Edward.
419 reviews406 followers
November 6, 2019
Based on the synopsis, Another Roadside Attraction sounds exactly like the kind of novel I’d enjoy. But mostly it just left me underwhelmed and bored. Robbins is much too obsessed with his quirky, idealised characters, who frankly are not that interesting. The vast majority of the novel is essentially a drawn-out setup to the promised climax in the final act, which, when it finally arrives, falls completely flat.

For a book marketed as a philosophical novel, its philosophy is pretty shallow. Most of the time I just felt the author was bullshitting me, and in the moments he seemed to express himself earnestly, there wasn’t a whole lot of substance to the ideas. Maybe it's because I’ve seen these same ideas expressed in more intelligent ways. Or maybe this is just a book for younger, less cynical people. I can certainly understand why someone might be enchanted by Tom Robbins’ voice; his whimsical outlook and style, but sadly it’s not for me.
Profile Image for Skallagrimsen.
268 reviews54 followers
October 26, 2022
The plot of Another Roadside Attraction involves a renegade colony of hippy artists, a sinister two-thousand-year-old Vatican conspiracy, and the mummified corpse of none other than Jesus Christ. But as with all of Tom Robbins's novels, the plot is almost beside the point, being mostly just an excuse to preach a Sixties psychedelic philosophy in his quirky and ebullient prose. I was still young and naive (uncorrupted?) enough to get an intoxicating rush from this novel in the summer of 1995, when I read it while hitchhiking through the rugged mountains and lush temperate rain forests of western Washington's Olympic Peninsula. It was the most perfect conceivable setting to appreciate Another Roadside Attraction.
Profile Image for Dustin Reade.
Author 24 books54 followers
June 12, 2011
three stars might be a bit harsh. I really liked this book, and wanted to give it four, but I just couldn't do it.
For you see, I have discovered something terrible: Tom Robbins has almost no re-read value.
Seriously. It is almost nonexistent.
While reading his books for the first time can be an eye-opening, hyper-enjoyable experience, trying to go through them a second time proves taxing, irritating, and slow-going. All of the surprises have been used up. THe joy of language has been dulled. In effect, you have been desensitized to the book's initial magic. And that is just sad.
Because the book really is incredible. It is informative, funny, and incredibly well written. In fact, ALL of Robbins books are amazing. The man really does have a gift.
But that gift is a one term president.
It just doesnt have what it takes to be re-elected.
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
721 reviews139 followers
March 5, 2016
Robbins resists convention in this improbable story told through the multiple voices and expository styles of his characters. He opens in the present with a straight-forward description of events. The narrator is a fictional writer oscillating between third person objectivity and the confiding first person plural of “we.” The narrative shifts between past and present scenes, interspersed with biographical notes, journal excerpts, reconstructed conversations, unspoken thoughts, emotions of the characters, and even the occasional editorial. The first two sections introduce Amanda and her future husband John Paul Ziller. Theirs is a yin-yang coupling. Ziller was born in the Congo. Attired like an atavistic Tarzan and embellished with a bone through his septum and a giraffe skin headband, he caught the imagination of the avant-garde art world. His celebrity was undiminished by claims that his tour de force, the “Non-Vibrating Astrological Dodo Dome Spectacular,” was fashioned by his pet baboon Mon Cul (go ahead, look up the meaning: http://en.bab.la/dictionary/french-en...)! Ziller's natural voice is through music — flute and drum — his journal entries being incomprehensible. One of his few lucid utterances was the declaration: “I'm always voyaging back to the source.” (p.50) As for Amanda, she might best be characterized as a sensuous earth mother, a free-spirited forager of mushrooms and spiritual insight. From her meditations on the butterfly and what she calls “The Infinite Goof” she has reconstructed a novel interpretation of reality hinted at in astonishing aphorisms. When the family lawyer chides her for fraternizing with weirdos, she counters: “There is no such thing as a weird human being. It's just that some people require more understanding.” (p.10) Contemplating Ziller's drumming, Amanda concludes: “The drummer deals almost exclusively with rhythm, therefore he is an architect of energy. Art is not eternal. Only energy is eternal. The drum is to infinity what the butterfly is to zero.” p.106
As a unit they are unwitting assailants on the bedrock of society: Authority. They form an unlikely pair. Amanda is a vegetarian; Ziller, a carnivore, is enamored with the symbolic potency of the sausage. They elect to serve only hot dogs and juice at their roadside cafe and Ziller erects a 30 foot long hotdog which can be spotted from a mile off. “...it is three-dimensional, tactile, larger than life, as rotund and good-natured as Falstaff but not entirely devoid of Hamlet's rank” (p.72) the narrator intones. As for the rest of the attraction, it consists of a flea circus, two garter snakes, and a tsetse fly entombed in amber. Is it so improbable that the most oblivious, conventional, self-involved examples of the touring public would stop at such a roadside attraction operated by such an idiosyncratic couple? Perhaps it is another of Amanda's “Infinite Goofs.”
Two more characters are introduced before the plot begins to take off. Plucky Purcell is a trickster of extravagant style. While Amanda and Ziller are merely non-conforming individuals, rejectors of the isms that imprison thought, Plucky is a guerrilla agent of disruption. Some of the most colorful passages in the book are his revisionist explanations of motorcycle helmet laws and of the symbiotic relationship between organized crime and organized law enforcement. Money and power fuel society he avers. Marx Marvelous is a scientist. His journal entries and observations clog the air with vapid erudition. Gradually, he opens himself to change. It begins with the sight of a clear-cut expanse: “Every hillside, every ridge is bare except for stumps and slash: a cemetery of forlorn stumps, low-spreading barricades of rain-rotted, sun-bleached slash....These murdered hills were for untold centuries green....Now they are barren, devastated, splintered, twisted, silent....” (p.175-176) he writes in his journal. The everyday tourists criss-crossing the country are no longer innocuous by the end of this book; he writes instead of their “aggressive mediocrity” (p.242)
Plucky's story is the engine of this book. He stumbles on a body in the forest and assumes the man's identity as a bit of a prank. The dead man turns out to have belonged to a sinister enforcement arm of the Catholic Church. The gun-toting brotherhood is housed in a monastery headed by a mirthless German cleric. Plucky is a jiujitsu expert. By coincidence this was the specialty of the dead man. These adventures are relayed to Amanda, Ziller and Marx Marvelous through a trickle of hasty surreptitious letters. Robbins drops hints of Plucky's future situation with intriguing references throughout the book about “The Corpse.”
This was a difficult book for me. Though interesting, the characters were extremely bizarre and the lack of an apparent storyline was perplexing. I did not really become invested in the book until Plucky Purcell was introduced. His rants against authority were refreshing and his involvement with the monastic hit squad were hilarious. It only gets better with his irreverent observations of the Vatican when he embarks on his special assignment.
The book adheres to an unexpected structure. Hints about “the Corpse” are dropped just enough to solicit anticipation. The relationship between Amanda and Ziller creates a tension between insightfulness and absurdity. The surprises revealed in the character of Marx Marvelous parallel the changes that occur in his intellectual viewpoint, and afford the author enormous flexibility in the writing style he adopts.
In fact it is the writing that makes this book memorable. Like his character, Amanda, Robbins “float[s] above the predictable.” (p.208) Hardly a page goes by without not just a quotable line but entire passages. Here is Plucky's description of the monastery capo Father Gutstadt: “...Gutstadt's Latin was even more dense than his English. His nouns were like cannonballs and his verbs, well it would have taken two men and a boy to carry one. It must have been the heaviest mass on record, a massive mass, if you'll excuse me. It's a wonder we didn't sink through the earth from the weight of it.” (p.185) The third person narrative permits him to expound on themes of genocide, pollution and unsustainable materialism, but these themes gain emotional impact from the absurdity that feeds Robbins' humor. Any aspiring writer MUST read this book.

The book was written in 1971 but feels astonishingly contemporary.
Profile Image for Nikolas Banos.
88 reviews22 followers
December 19, 2020
Το βιβλίο αυτό ήρθε στα χέρια μου, ως δώρο γενεθλίων από μια καλή φίλη και συνάδελφο, την Χριστίνα. Είχα διαβάσει ξανά Ρόμπινς. Γνώριζα το ύφος του και θεωρούσα ότι η γραφή του, ήταν, ανέκαθεν, ένα ευχάριστο και ξεκαρδιστικό διάλειμμα από βιβλία, τα οποία περιείχαν βαρύγδουπες ιδέες και βαθιά νοήματα. Ένα λογοτεχνικό επιδόρπιο, αν θέλετε. Έτσι, λοιπόν, μετά τον άνεργο κοσμοπολίτη Φαμπιάν και τον αντισυμβατικό Γιάννη του Σκαρίμπα, αποφάσισα πως είναι ώρα να κάνω το διάλειμμα και να αφεθώ στην ανάλαφρη γραφή του Ρόμπινς και να γνωρίσω, επιτέλους, την Αμάντα. Άλλωστε με περίμενε μήνες, καθήμενη στο ράφι, που την είχα τοποθετήσει.
Ανοίγοντας το βιβλίο, γνώρισα, σχεδόν αμέσως, τα ελεύθερα πνεύματα. Η Αμάντα και ο Τζον Πολ Ζίλερ είναι ένα ζευγάρι το οποίο, απελευθερωμένο από τις όποιες κοινωνικές συμβάσεις, θυμίζουν δύο νέους που γνωρίστηκαν στην εποχή των παιδιών των λουλουδιών. Μαζί τους ο μικρός Θωρ να παρακολουθεί τα συμβάντα με προσοχή – ή /και όχι – και ο Μαρξ Μάρβελους να αμφισβητεί έννοιες όπως διαίσθηση, συναισθηματική νοημοσύνη και μυστικισμό. Το αλλοπρόσαλλο ζευγάρι να μας παρ��υσιάζει τις περιπέτειες του Πλακί Πουρσέλ, περιπέτειες που, νομοτελειακά, θα τους βάλουν όλους σε μεγάλους μπελάδες. Όλο αυτό, τώρα, με φόντο την επιχείρηση τους, το Λουκανικομάγαζο Προστασίας Άγριων Ζώων «Λογαχος Κεντρικ».

Read More Here: https://nikolasinbookland.wordpress.c...
Profile Image for Tracey.
2,031 reviews50 followers
September 25, 2007
A couple of "flower children" types open a hot dog stand in the Pacific Northwest and correspond with a friend who has inadvertently joined an order of assassin monks. They are joined by Marx Marvelous, a self-proclaimed scientist who believes that Christianity is drawing to a close. And about that mysterious Corpse that shows up at one point....

Written in 1971, aspects of this novel seem awfully dated (drug & counter-culture references abound - plenty of sex, too!), but the underlying philosophy is still valid - faith vs science -- and do they have to be versus one another? Many clever turns of phrase as well.

Recommended to those who are interested in discussions of faith & science & can handle a couple of steamy love scenes.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,452 reviews474 followers
February 3, 2018
I think there are probably a lot of men who will love this still.
Profile Image for Paloma.
10 reviews1 follower
February 16, 2012
This book is all over the place, simply put. I could probably not tell you what it was about even if I were on the strongest of hallucinogenic drugs that it probably took to write this book. Sorry Tom Robbins, but I personally prefer books in which I can actually understand what’s going on.

This book follows a reckless, sexually loose girl named Amanda and her husband, as they open a roadside stand and meet many eccentric characters along the way as they discover many of life’s lessons. Don’t be fooled, this book is not as quirky or holistic as it sounds. Along the way, they meet a friend who was sent by the government to find out what the young generation is all about. That is practically all I can deduce from this book. The diction, for one is random as hell, for lack of a better term, Robbins cannot seem to stay on one subject for more than a paragraph before he wanders on to talking about a girl’s pet talking bear, monks, and Volkswagens (yes, all in the same book). This book gives the entire 1970’s a bad name; I feel like my grandmother by thinking that all of these people were on drugs and crazy solely based upon this book was written.

Maybe if you have an intense spinal surgery and are given daily doses or morphine, heck maybe if you drink codeine like grape juice and snort Benadryl on a daily basis, then maybe, just maybe you’ll enjoy this book. But please, for the sake of making good use of your life, don’t waste your time reading this book. I truly wish I had those two weeks of my life back. Seriously, if you want a spiritual revelation, go to a temple or something, just don’t read this book.
Author 5 books14 followers
February 11, 2008
The best word for this book is choppy. It is flashes of brilliance surrounded by a multitude of metaphors that are sometimes poignant and touching, but often flat and feel as if they're there for shock value. But being that this is only Tom Robbins' first novel, you can tell how he would grow to become brilliant.
The characters are intriguing and captivating, but there were many, many times when I found myself wishing the author would stop describing their minute nuances and just get on with it already. And even when he would get on with it, he would get lost in the details of something or other and you'd be reading a laundry list of items in a room or food at a dinner when the story was right there, waiting for you. You could call it suspense, but it felt more like irritation to me.
But I feel like I'm being to harsh on this book. One of the best gauges I have for a book is how engrossing it is when I'm on train. If I forget I'm standing on a packed train and am even surprised when I get to my stop, then there is no denying that I'm completely entranced in a book. And that happened frequently with Another Roadside Attraction. The pleasure in this book was the journey, not the destination. I'm perhaps more of a destination reader, so it's not particularly my taste, but if you read for poetics over plot, then this book is brilliant.
Profile Image for Robert.
15 reviews40 followers
November 14, 2018
What do a hot dog stand, the art of unarmed combat, the Vatican, a jazz musician/film-maker/magician, a baboon, and the second coming of Jesus Christ have in common? If you've read any Tom Robbins novel then you'll not be surprised the answer is a lot. This is Robbins' first novel, which I somehow managed to miss along my own journey. Better late than never. For some, this may feel like an outdated read (first published in 1971). There is definitely a counterculture feel, but Robbins has always been good about not forcing a side to be taken but rather laying it all bare, without judgment. Of course, his wry, keen wit makes the story so worth the read. This book deals with questioning the more or less accepted teachings of the church. Not in a tone of condemnation but rather opening us to the fact that there may be other possibilities. The possibility of change. This book is all about fun writing and fun reading. Colorful language and colorful characters make it a joy to pick up and continue the read. If you're not laughing while reading this book then you've missed something.
Profile Image for Shannon.
4 reviews3 followers
June 3, 2009
My first Tom Robbins (and his)... This book taught me that he is indeed the literary guru that he and all the coffeehouse cave-dwellers who can't pry their cigs away from their rot stained teeth long enough to save their lives... save 9$!... save my airspace... think he is... and like most egomaniacal freaks who are sure that their spiritual dick is bigger than everyone else's this work is fairly masturbatory-did he not have an editor, a friend, someone to help curtail the gluttony? Did he have no one to tell him that he was cramming ten books into one? Gurus usually surround themselves with suck and swallow yesmen so I'm guessing, "no."
I kept wanting to pack a bowl to battle the nausea-the kind inspired by a one sitting's indulgence of an entire pie. But after one effort I realized that mary jane was not going to help me wade through an already tangentially challenged muck pit. Since I was reading it for my book group I clamped onto the rope of the story line while it dragged me through all of its manipulations and this intimacy made me realize that I actually liked it-the story. A bit 1972-ish, but likable nonetheless. And you'll never catch me protesting the development of a meaty and self-possessed heroine who is worshipped for being so. Also, he gifts the reader with some very beautiful moments... descriptions you can taste... and visuals that will suck you down his rabbit hole. And yet he over gifts (it's a 5$ limit Tom). I enjoyed the "word-find" of Terrance McKenna's influences and the feeling that I was getting a freshly decorated house tour of the Puget Sound (since I am a fairly new resident). But I will leave anyone brave enough to have read this far with the hybrid word I developed to describe my Tom Robbins experience: VERBASIVE.
Profile Image for Stewart Sternberg.
Author 4 books31 followers
March 17, 2019
Man, I loved me this book. Perfect? No, but neither is Nature, dude.

This bit of psychedic beauty published in 1971 like really encapsulates a movement. You know. The spiritualism, mystism, and various other isms that were part of the questing thriving mass that was the briefly lit hippy movement of the late sixties. Free sex, free dope, free god. Free god, dude, from his prisons in the prisons of the world and embrace the Oneness that is all the minute specks of everything that is the Universe.

funny, irreverent, challenging, sometimes pointless and self-absorbed, this was an enjoyable and occasionally beautifully written novel.
Profile Image for Meghan Hughes Ohrstrom.
112 reviews2,027 followers
October 16, 2021
One star for the fun/quirky theme of this book. Minus the other 4 stars for the blatant racism no one talks about?
Profile Image for Philip of Macedon.
268 reviews63 followers
July 26, 2020
Usually when I read something really, really, really great I know before I'm even finished that I'll be incapable of conveying how great it is to anyone, or giving it a review that in any way expresses how fantastic it is. I don't usually like to review books that I give 5 stars to because most of the time I just don't know where to begin, and I know my review won't do my feelings, or the book, justice. Those reviews are always more of a mess than usual. I just don't know how to organize my thoughts, nor do I ever possess the energy or the skill required to give it a review it deserves. This is one of those occasions, as you can already tell by the rambling incoherent mess it's turning out to be, but I'm going to take a moment anyway to try to say a few things about Another Roadside Attraction.

I bought it on a whim, having never heard of Tom Robbins (although later realizing he was the guy who wrote Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, which I've neither read nor seen the movie adaptation of, although I knew of it). I saw it in the bookstore, thought it seemed amusing, and the blurbs on the cover comparing the writing to Mark Twain and Borges and Nabokav and Joyce made it sound like something to give a shot, so I got it. A few months later I read it. I should not have waited months. It surpassed all expectations I had, which were already kind of high.

I can understand someone not liking the book, but even more I can fully understand those who say it's one of their favorite books ever written. There's nothing quite like it. Maybe Robbins' other stuff is similar, I don't know. But this is an amazing book simply for its writing alone. Each page is packed with sentence after sentence that is itself its own microcosm of masterpiece and mystery and magic, part of something bigger and more important, but never diminished. Not since Gogol and Melville have I read prose that could be called four dimensional. Robbins does it. He nails it. Sometimes he really nails everything all at once like some kind of god-lord of the written word, and unleashes powerful passages that are hilarious and complex and insightful and revealing and pissing that throbbing creativity every which way all at once. And its characters, its plot, its structure, its mental entanglement, its actual story and side stories and unconventional development are nothing to ignore, either, for although by this point they could be random and the book would be a solid feat, they are each an important trait that amass into a weighty bulk of psychedelic mind expanding power. Robbins has a true work of greatness on his hands here, and it was only his first novel. The thing explodes with talent and creative genius.

It's the kind of book one reads slowly. Or I did, anyway. There seems to be so much thought and vision and style packed into each page, each paragraph, each sentence, that a slow, highly attentive, sometimes repeated (up to four or five times for maximum effect) reading is necessary to fully take it all in. Very often I found myself amazed at a passage, so I re-read it a few times before moving forward. Other times I even went back a few pages just to revisit excellent parts, to relive Robbins' unmatched protean metaphors and his godlike handling of the English language, layered over some exquisite scene of absolute hilarity and beauty. If you read this book at the same pace you read most books, it's unlikely you'll take in everything. You'll miss half of it, especially the most important pieces. I think this is the simplest explanation for why some so strongly dislike it.

While reading Another Roadside Attraction I found myself doing what I always do when I've discovered an author who impresses me: reading everything I can about him. He frequently gets lumped in with the postmodernists and even the beat writers. But without question Tom Robbins is superior to those who are considered his "peers", and this includes Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, William S. Burroughs, and anyone else whose work might warrant some kind of a comparison. If you took those very rare moments where Thomas Pynchon’s writing is actually very good, or the sparse parts of Burroughs’ writing that were novel and fun, and you put them into a writer who maintained that quality for the duration of his book, who could actually write at a high level of skill for more than a page or a paragraph, and even exceeded that quality quite often, you would have some semblance of Robbins. The fact that we have Robbins means we don’t need Pynchon, because Pynchon’s only value was occasionally sprinkling his field of shit with golden nuggets that one had to wade through neck deep waste to reach. Robbins’ entire field is gold nuggets, as far as the eye can see.

Although I understand comparisons with each of those writers, Robbins has been the only writer of this ilk, and that includes all other beatnik and postmodern writers I've read, to not only not lose me with utter stupidity or vapid, tired, gimmicky, talentless, hackneyed crap, or not-quite-capable storytelling, or awkward prose, or thoughtless vision, or failed experimental form, but who has successfully transcended the very things these other writers were trying so hard to transcend by succeeded at everything, and has accomplished truly magnificent art with his words, nailing every factor that mattered.

His vision, hard to define though it might be, resonates and seems fully realized, important, strongly demonstrated, superbly executed time and time again, and unfalteringly present without any weakness. Despite the chaos of his creation, he controls everything and is focused and intent and ultra-intelligent. It's wonderful to finally find an author of this generation/scene/"genre"/movement that I can support, appreciate, and who is, fortunately, still alive. He's in a league all his own. I look forward to reading more...
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