Donald Barthelme once said, "Those who never attempt the absurd never achieve the impossible." Robbins (Still Life with Woodpecker; Jitterbug Perfume; etc.) has made a career of attempting and achieving both, and in this, his eighth novel, he pulls it off again. Here we have weirdness personified, a quirky, outrageous concoction that is a joy to the imagination. The novel begins with the story of Tanuki, a badgerlike Asian creature with a reputation as a changeling and trickster and a fondness for sake. Also part of the cast is a beautiful young woman who may or may not have Tanuki's blood in her veins (but definitely does have a chrysanthemum seed embedded in the roof of her mouth), and three American MIAs who have chosen to remain in Laos long after the Vietnam War. Events are set in motion when one of the MIAs, dressed as a priest, is arrested with a cache of heroin taped to his body. In vintage Robbins style, the plot whirls every which way, as the author, writing with unrestrained glee, takes potshots at societal pillars: the military, big business and religions of all ilks. The language is eccentric, electrifying and true to the mark. A few examples: "The afternoon passed more slowly than a walnut-sized kidney stone"; "He crooned the way a can of cheap dog food might croon if a can of cheap dog food had a voice"; "Dickie's heart felt suddenly like an iron piano with barbwire strings and scorpions for keys." While the ending is a bit of a letdown, this is delectable farce, full of tantalizing secrets and bizarre disguises. Author tour. (May 6) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Eccentric American fliers Mars Stubblefield, Dickie Goldwire, and Dern Foley are shot down in Laos in the waning days of the Vietnam War. Officially missing in action, they opt to stay missing when the war ends, fashioning a comfortable existence in a remote mountain village by selling opiates to Asian hospices. When Dern is arrested on Guam with a load of heroin, those in the outside world, from the CIA to his spinster sisters in Seattle, suddenly become aware of the trio's existence, with highly disturbing consequences. Intertwined with this story is that of the trickster Tanuki, a badgerlike creature from Japanese folklore, who impregnates a young girl. Her great-granddaughter, Lisa Ko, who carries a mysterious chrysanthemum seed embedded in the roof of her mouth, eventually makes her way to the fliers' mountaintop hideaway and builds a circus act around real-life tanukis. As outlandishly imaginative as ever, Robbins has nevertheless written a rather short book by his recent standards, with the brevity resulting less from concision than a lack of development. Still, given Robbins's avid readership, public libraries will want this. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/02.]-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Magic-drawing-pad paragraphs from psychotropic child genius Robbins (Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, 2000, etc.). What can a poor reviewer do when attempting to skimble-skamble through that celebrated cerebellum in search of storyline when each page fades immediately? Might Robbins not review himself and quote heavily from a hairy bonfire of half-naked similes, the kind that leave a girl mellowed out, disrobed, lustful, and movie-going on the living-room rug? And yet, something serious, a playfulness and sense of fun, deep-surging in the lingual circuits, rises from the verbal infinitudes whispering from Robbins’s midbrain, a heroic antitoxin to the electronic wasteland of sitcoms and feel-good flicks. Using his outsized scrotum as a parachute, Tanuki, a potbellied, nearly tailless East Asian wild dog that walks on its hind legs, falls to earth from the Other World. After much success with country girls, Tanuki fails to seduce cosmopolite femmes and so spends a winter shape-shifting into human form. Now incognito, thieving Tanuki enters Kyotoand so begin Candide-like adventures in counter-Zen philosophy: Tanuki’s philosophical duels with Kitsune the fox, his marriage to Miho, and his fathering of daughter Kazu. Centuries later, Tanuki’s descendants turn up in Seattle. Then, too, we meet American MIAs who prefer Asia to the States; Miss Ginger Sweetie, a Bangkok whore studying comparative literature; the guitar-playing Dickie Goldwire; godawful Elvis impersonator Elvisuit, who sometimes sings at Patpong’s Cherry Bomb Club; and Madame Ko and her tumbling tanukis in the Southeast Asian circus. All leads to an autumnal farewell: "All across the clearing, the dying grass and sunwere practically the same shade of yellow. Last-minute shoppers crowded the pollen parlors, and every other flower-head drooped from bee-weight . . . Already rubbed red by nights of foreplay, boughs, each leaf alert, awaited the transformative ejaculation of frost." Soulful on a subliminal seafloor. Agent: Phoebe Larmore
"Robbins...is to words what Uri Geller is to spoons: He bends sentences into playful escapades....Bottom line: Another bedside attraction."—People
"Brilliantly offbeat satire."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"A delectable farce, full of tantalizing secrets and bizarre disguises."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Ebullient, irreverent, hilarious…Villa Incognito is ribald fairy tale meets…Apocalypse Now.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Robbins remains a welcome breath of fresh air in American literature.”—Globe and Mail
“Perhaps [the] greatest book from Robbins…phantasmagorical, richly layered, utterly hilarious, and unexpectedly poignant.” —Pages