Jitterbug Perfume

( 131 )

Overview

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...

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Jitterbug Perfume

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Overview

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 actually is the secret essence of the universe, as some folks seem to think, it had better be discovered soon because it is leaking and there is only a drop or two left.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

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

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.
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.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553348989
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1990
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 92,318
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.21 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Robbins

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.

Biography

So much mythology swirls around Pacific Northwest novelist Tom Robbins that sorting fact from fiction is a daunting challenge. Born Thomas Eugene Robbins in 1936 in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, he was raised from age 11 on in a suburb near Richmond, Virginia. He attended Washington and Lee University but did not graduate. Instead, he quit college and spent a year hitchhiking, settling for a while in New York City.

Robbins enlisted in the Air Force in 1957, just one step ahead of the draft, and served three years in Korea. Upon discharge, he moved back to Virginia to attend art school at Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University), graduating in 1961. During this time he worked as a copy editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

According to Robbins, the South's hidebound racism -- perfectly mirrored in the newspaper's policy -- prompted him to move as far away from Richmond as possible "while still remaining in the continental United States." He ended up in Seattle in the early 1960s, enrolled in the University of Washington to pursue his Masters, and went to work for the Seattle Times. If we are to believe the story, it was around this time that he first sampled LSD (not yet an illegal substance). Blown away by the experience, he chucked both grad school and his job at the paper and spent the rest of the decade bouncing between the East and West Coasts -- writing, working as a DJ in alternative radio, and partaking liberally of the countercultural smorgasbord of the day.

Towards the end of the '60s, Robbins began working seriously at his writing, culminating in 1971 with the publication of his first novel, the comic absurdist tale Another Roadside Attraction. A failure in hardcover, it nevertheless sold well as a paperback, prompting publishers to release his next book -- 1976's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues -- in both formats simultaneously. Although he has not been a hit with most mainstream critics, Robbins has achieved rarified cult status with successive generations of 20-somethings who adore his goofy, upbeat satirical fiction. He claims to never read reviews but is pleased to have enjoyed a steady string of bestsellers starting with Still Life with Woodpecker in 1980. In 2005, he produced Wild Ducks Flying Backward, a volume of shorter works, including poems, stories, essays, articles, and reviews.

Rumor has it that Robbins polishes each sentence to perfection before moving on to the next. Whether or not that's true, he does admit to being a slow writer -- and to needing a long period of rest and recuperation (usually involving travel to some exotic place) in between books. All of which explains why his output is surprisingly slender, especially for a writer who inspires such passionate, fanatical devotion!

Good To Know

Here are some fun facts (and perhaps some fun fiction, as well!) about Tom Robbins:

  • An accomplished artist, Robbins is one of only a handful of writers to have cover design built into their book contracts.
  • When Elvis Presley died of an overdose in his bathroom on August 16, 1977, there was rumored to be a copy of Another Roadside Attraction on the floor beside him.
  • While working as a journalist and DJ in Washington state, Robbins attended a 1967 Doors concert in Seattle. He claims that the origins of his unique writing style can be found in that piece.
  • Robbins has enjoyed friendships with a group of widely people, from '60s countercultural icons like Alan Ginsberg and Timothy Leary to mythologist Joseph Campbell (with whom he once traveled to South America.
  • Robbins has appeared in several films, including Made in Heaven, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, Breakfast of Champions, and Gus Van Sant's 1993 adaptation of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Hometown:
        LaConner, Washington
      1. Date of Birth:
        July 22, 1936
      2. Place of Birth:
        Blowing Rock, North Carolina

    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 regretting his 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.

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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4.5
    ( 131 )
    Rating Distribution

    5 Star

    (90)

    4 Star

    (22)

    3 Star

    (12)

    2 Star

    (6)

    1 Star

    (1)

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 132 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted October 31, 2004

      Jitterbug Perfume

      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.

      5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted October 15, 2008

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      Beet-licious

      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.

      2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 8, 2005

      Fantastic Read

      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.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 20, 2004

      Kind of odd at first....

      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.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted June 13, 2004

      Best book I've reread in years

      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.

      2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 28, 2011

      Awesome

      Super awsome

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted August 26, 2011

      A beautifully written and highly entertaining view into this life

      Nothing more to add. This is my all time favorite book followed closely by Another Roadside Attraction

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted August 6, 2011

      One of the best

      One of the best works of fiction.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted March 4, 2011

      Possibly Me Favorite Book

      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.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted January 9, 2011

      Learn the secret to longevity and more!

      I have read this many times in my life. I have found it entertaining and a guide through challenges in my life.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 1, 2011

      My favorite book ever!

      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.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 18, 2010

      Wonderful!

      This is one of the best books I have ever read. Perfect. Beautiful.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 13, 2003

      Exhaustingly imaginative (which is a great thing)

      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.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 12, 2003

      as wonderful as beets are red!!

      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!

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 12, 2003

      Best Book EVER

      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.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 9, 2002

      Loved it!

      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.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 19, 2002

      A bible

      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.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 27, 2013

      A musr A must read

      A must read

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    • Posted August 26, 2013

      more from this reviewer

      Very entertaining and provocative

      This read was a nice surprise. I picked up the title through an interview with an unknown to me actress reading In Style magazine and it sounded interesting. Having grown up in an Irish/Polish family, I can appreciate the root vegetables, especially beets, so found Robbins' way of making them the centerpiece and binding thread of the story humorous. It also gets you to thinking about man's quest for agelessness and immortality.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted July 16, 2013

      Enjoyable!

      Fun entertainment!

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 132 Customer Reviews

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