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Jitterbug Perfume

Jitterbug Perfume

4.5 138
by Tom Robbins

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Jitterbug Perfume is an epic. which is to say, it begins in the forests of ancient Bohemia and doesn't conclude until nine o'clock tonight [Paris time]. It is a saga, as well. A saga must have a hero, and the hero of this one is a janitor with a missing bottle. The bottle is blue, very, very old, and embossed with the image of a goat-horned god. If the


Jitterbug Perfume is an epic. which is to say, it begins in the forests of ancient Bohemia and doesn't conclude until nine o'clock tonight [Paris time]. It is a saga, as well. A saga must have a hero, and the hero of this one is a janitor with a missing bottle. The bottle is blue, very, very old, and embossed with the image of a goat-horned god. If the liquid in the bottle is actually is the secret essence of the universe, as some folks seem to think, it had better be discovered soon becaused it is leaking and there is only a drop of two left.

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
Jitterbug Perfume has a large and exotic cast of characters, all of whom are interested in immortality and/or perfume... Go see for yourself; you'll have a good time.
From the Publisher
"Jitterbug Perfume has a large and  exotic cast of characters, all of whom are interested  in immortality and/or perfume... Go see for  yourself; you'll have a good time."—Washington Post

“Robbins again celebrates the joy of individual expression and self-reliance. He lays before us the time honored warts and hairs of the world’s philosophies—problems with religion, war, politics, family, marriage and sex—and leaves no twist or turn unstoned. —Saturday Review

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.87(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

The citadel was dark, and the heroes were sleeping. When they breathed, it sounded as if they were testing the air for dragon smoke.

On their sofas of spice and feathers, the concubines also slept fretfully. In those days, the earth was till flat, and people dreamed often of falling over edges.

Blacksmiths hammered the Edge Serpent on the anvils of their closed eyelids. Wheelwrights rolled it, tail in mouth, down the cart roads of their slumber. Cooks roasted it in dream pits, seamstresses sewed it to the badge hides that covered them, the court necromancer traced its contours in the constellation of straw on which he tossed. Only the babes in the nursery lay peacefully, passive even to the fleas that supped on their tenderness.

King Alobar did not sleep well at all. He was as awake as the guards at the gate. More awake, actually, for the guards mused dreamily about mead, boiled beets, and captive women as their eyes patrolled the forested horizon, while the king was as conscious as an unsheathed knife; coldly conscious and warmly troubled. Beside him, inside the ermine blankets, his great hound, Mik, and his wife, Alma, snoozed the night away, oblivious to their lord's distress. Well, let them snore, for neither the dog's tongue, not the wife's could lap the furrows from his brow, although he had sent for Alma that evening mainly because of her tongue. Alma's mouth, freshly outlined with beet paint, was capable of locking him in a carnal embrace that while it endured forbade any thoughts of the coils beyond the brink. Alas, but it could endure for so long, and no sooner was Alma hiccuping the mushroom scent of his spurt than he was regrettinghis choice. He should have summoned Wren, his favorite wife, for though Wren lacked Alma's special sexual skills, she knew his heart. He could confide in Wren without fear that his disclosures would be woven into common gossip on the concubines' looms.

Alobar's castle, which in fact was a simple fort of stone and wood surrounded by a fence of tree trunks, contained treasures, not the least of which was a slab of polished glass that had come all the way from Egypt to show the king his face. The concubines adored this magic glass, and Alobar, whose face was so obscured by whiskers that its reflection offered a minimum of contemplative reward, was content to leave it in their quarters, where they would spend hours each day gazing at the wonders that it reproduced. Once, a very young concubine named Frol had dropped the mirror, breaking off a corner of it. The council had wanted to banish her to the forest, where wolves or warriors from a neighboring domain might suck her bones, but Alobar had intervened, limiting her punishment to thirty lashes. Later, when her wounds had healed, she bore him fine twin sons. From that time on, however, the king visited the harem each new moon to make sure the looking glass had not lost its abilities.

Now, on this day, the new moon of the calendar we know as September, when Alobar conducted his routine inspection, he looked into the mirror longer, more intently than usual. Something in the secrets and shadows of the imperfectly polished surface caught his eye. He stared, and as he stared his pulse began to run away with itself. He carried the glass to an open window, where refracting sparks of sunshine enlivened its ground but refused to alter its message. "So soon?" he whispered, as he tilted the mirror. Another angle, the same result. Perhaps the glass is tricking me, he thought. Magic things are fond of deceptions.

Although the day was rather balmy, he pulled up the hood of his rough linen cloak and, blushing like blood's rich uncle, thrust the mirror into the hands of the nearest concubine, who happened to be Frol. The other women gasped. They rushed to relieve her of the precious object. Alobar left the room.

With some difficulty, for others tried to insist on accompanying him, the king excused himself from court and took the giant dog Mik for a romp outside the citadel gate. Circuitously, he made his way into the woods to a spring he knew. There, he fell to his knees and bent close to the water, as if to drink. Smothered under a swirl of cloudy mixtures, his reflection only spasmodically came into focus. Yet, among the bubbles, twigs, and jumbled particles of light and color, he saw it once more: a hair as white as the snow that a swan has flown over. It spiraled from his right temple.

Undirected—and unencumbered—by thought, King Alobar's hand shot out as if to ward off an enemy's blow. He yanked the hair from its mooring, examined it as one might examine a killed snake, and, after glancing over his shoulder to assure that none save Mik was his witness, flicked it into the spring, in whose waters it twisted and twirled for a long time before sinking out of sight.

What People are Saying About This

Sage Weil
I don't know if I like Robbins' philosophical insight, but his style and humor are really fun (Sage Weil is Webring Director of Starseed Inc.)

Meet the Author

Tom Robbins has been called “a vital natural resource” by The Oregonian, “one of the wildest and most entertaining novelists in the world” by the Financial Times of London, and “the most dangerous writer in the world today” by Fernanda Pivano of Italy’s Corriere della Sera. A Southerner by birth, Robbins has lived in and around Seattle since 1962.

Brief Biography

LaConner, Washington
Date of Birth:
July 22, 1936
Place of Birth:
Blowing Rock, North Carolina

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Jitterbug Perfume 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 138 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is one of those books that leaves your chest hurting and your head spinning. i didn't even realize how engrossed i was in it until it was a day later and i was almost done. the characters wouldn't let go of me, and i couldn't read anything else for weeks. i even absentmindedly called my friend Katie 'Kudra' once, and drew some weird looks. anyway, this book is just...magical. Priscilla is a wonderful mix of uncertainty and passion, nonchalance and love, while V'lu leaves you wondering, never really knowing where her loyalties lie. Alobar is the character i liked the most, because half the time you want to smack him and the other half you wanna give him a big hug. He's a naive king, and an optimistic cynic. He and Kudra's relationship evolves in front of your eyes, and that was what really impressed me, because not many writers can pull that off sucessfully. Ricki and Wiggs are the human aspects of the book, so obviously flawed, and Pan, of course, is the thing that ties them all together. That and the perfume. And beets, for a reason that i won't ruin for you. A must read for anyone, really.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I put the book down for a long time when i first started it, my friend read it and asked how i like it. Unfortunately i couldn't give her an answer, so i read it and it was great. Despite the slow begining the story with in the story was fabulous.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kind of a weird beginning - I almost put it down, but I'm glad I didn't. The story is magical and really sucks you in. It makes you think about life and all its mysteries. A must read for the spiritually curious.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hadn't read it in years - reminded me of why I loved reading. By page 22 you realize that you're not putting down this book until you're finished. Wonderful breath and depth of feelings. An adventure for the soul.
Jeremy Sills More than 1 year ago
Super awsome
CaptainKendrick More than 1 year ago
Nothing more to add. This is my all time favorite book followed closely by Another Roadside Attraction
Nikki Richter More than 1 year ago
One of the best works of fiction.
Lindsey_G More than 1 year ago
Jitterbug Perfume is an epic, stretching from the 8th century to the 20th. It will dazzle the senses and bring new ideas to your mind. However, if extreme verbosity is not your thing, don't pick this up. Tom Robbins is a playful author who will take you away from the narrative to wander in his head.
Kenneth Wennemar More than 1 year ago
I have read this many times in my life. I have found it entertaining and a guide through challenges in my life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the very few books I've read multiple times. Definitely the most original. I always get something new out of it at each reading. Buy into the wackiness and readers won't be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have ever read. Perfect. Beautiful.
basiaaa More than 1 year ago
I keep going back to this novel every few years, have read it maybe 5 times now? There are few authors that craft such impeccable senteces like Tom Robbins. And have such outlandish plots! His latest stuff I'm not into that much, but the first 5 books he wrote - genius.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The two things that prompted me to order this novel was the unique-sounding plotline and all of the positive reviews. This is the first Tom Robbins book that I've read and I can honestly say will not be the last. I hesitated reading any of his work for so long because his concepts seemed so far out there, I didn't think I'd enjoy them. I've cheated myself out of some incredible reading material in the process. As far as I'm concerned, with the exception of Alobar and Kudra, the rest of the characters take a backseat to this amazing story of the quest for immortality. Mr. Robbins's brilliant storytelling transfixes you from the very first page and keeps you glued until the very last sentence. A must for 'thinking' readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tom Robbins is insightful and witty. His books make you laugh and think about everything imaginable. He's just a wonderful writer. Jitterbug Perfume is the best of all of his novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'd like to keep this simple--this book was some of the most entertaining, thought-provoking time i have ever spent between the pages of a book. Tom Robbins has cemented himself a spot in my top five, even if it weren't for his other books (which i also love) this single text would be enough for me!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jitterbug Perfume was an excellent read. It is an engaging, passionate, and exciting novel and I highly reccomend it to anyone who loves to read. Alobar and Kudra's travels truly made me see the world in a different way. PS Don't forget your dictionary when reading this though, Tom Robbins has a very extensive vocabulary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you've started to take life to seriously, to the point that you might even think yourself mortal, this book is the antedote. Wrapped up in all the fizzing metaphors, sexy romps, historical beetroots and throwaway gags, you'll find Buddhism with a sense of humour, spirituality with human warmth and everything you need to inspire you once conventional religion proves insufficient. And it's a good story too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Buying an ebook so I can reread it for the Nth time.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not much into novels which is my problem so I had never read anything by Tom Robbins. I was asked to read this book by a friend who said the issues raised would be very interesting to discuss. The issues are death and is there anything after death. What is aging and how does each one of us face that challenge of illness, aging and finally death? The author clearly focuses on those issues but he uses a subtle discussion on the sensory experience of "smell" as opposed to sight, touch or taste, our normal way of handling the world of reality outside of ourselves. But what is even better is the sense of humor that he constantly introduces to make us really laugh at situations which ordinarily seem so serious. He definitely uses humor to describe sexual situations which are almost prurient, but described so humorously that one has to laugh loudly rather than be offended by his descriptions. Getting to the issues of aging and the issue of life after death, the author simply raises issues and leaves the discussion to us.Do we really want to happen to us what the main characters of this novel offer to us? What is interesting is that the author travels through the history of humanity and the struggle that each epoch of history presents to the human persons living in that era. Enjoyable and so humorous the author couches such serious issues as life, death, sexuality and the sense of smell as so important to the human condition.
treehugger2 More than 1 year ago
A wonderful tale in which a King and a young woman - each on the run from a death sentence - meet and discover that by practicing four eternal truths  (proper breathing, bathing, diet, and sex), they can come to "vibrate at the frequency of the eternal" and conquer death itself.  Along the way and across the centuries, they encounter numerous characters that populate myth, legend, and Tom Robbins' imagination.  Oh, and it's about beets.
Geo35 More than 1 year ago
Having read one of his other books earlier, I knew Robbins was a genius.  This book confirmed it, and turned into one of my favorite novels ever.  I'm collecting everything he's ever written on my Nook and anxiously await my upcoming retirement, so that I can binge on his writing next summer!
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