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Still Life with Woodpecker - Tom Robbins So I read this in college (18 years ago) and had fond memories. After reading, I read several other Tom Robbins novels and I recall thinking that he was one of my favorite authors. Now, I'm trying to decide if it is just that he appealed to my younger, more naive, more optimistic, irreverent self because he simply appeals more to the college mentality than to the adult "soccer mom" mentality OR if he really was never that good and I was just caught up in a college fad of "Tom Robbins is great". Maybe I just liked this book so much before because I used to smoke Camel cigarettes and now that I don't I've lost the magic (although if (as Robbins claims) magic comes from mystery one would think that cigarettes are more mysterious to me now that I don't smoke than they were when I did).

Either way, this time around I was not impressed. I had recommended Robbins to my kid brother and then realized that I couldn't quite remember details from any of his books and so, decided to re-read. Now I know, the details are not memorable. He is irreverent and slightly witty, but overall the novel is just a rambling fairy tale; rantings about love and the moon and changing the world one person at a time fall flat and seem outdated to these jaded ears (eyes since I'm reading?).

That said, there are a few quotes worth recording here for my eyes 18 years (or less) hence when I once again can't remember this book:

"half-shellfish half-peach that occupied the warm, watery bowl of her lower regions,"...certainly unique and most likely offensive (but funny as a peachfish reference for the rest of the book) description of the lovely Leigh-Cheri's most sensitive parts.

"Inessential insanities are a brittle amalgamation of ambition, aggression, and pre-adolescent anxiety--garbage that should have been dumped long ago." But of course linger on inside of each of us precisely because of our own insanities.

"objects, as we understand them, are relatively stable, whereas ideas are definitely unstable, they not only can be misused, they invite misuse." What a great argument for the cult of object worship as he develops it....or then could it be an argument for materialism?

"There's a tendency today to absolve individuals of moral responsibility and treat them as victims of social circumstance. You buy that, you pay with your soul." 'nough said.

"we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously." Better summary on happiness than was provided by David Foster Wallace...and in the context of unhealthy relationships and addiction problems.

"Every smoker is an embodiment of Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and bringing it on back home. We smoke to capture the power of the sun, to pacify Hell, to identify with the primordial spark, to feed on the marrow of the volcano. It's not the tobacco we're after but the fire. When we smoke, we are preforming a version of the fire dance, a ritual as ancient as lightning. Does that mean that chain smokers are religious fanatics? You must admit there's a similarity." As one who struggles with her own addictive tendencies and loves James Frey's comments on replacing one addiction with another (AA with whatever substances were previously abused), I like this image. It is not necessarily the substance (in this case tobacco), it is the act of smoking, the process of repetitive ritual, and the worship of some cruel god.

"Yet, as any half-awake materialist well knows, that which you holds, holds you." We can apply this to the object worship or the addiction theme...certainly not profound, rather quite trite, but true nonetheless.

"Funny how we think of romance as always involved two, when the romance of solitude can be ever so much more delicious and intense." Once again, you need to know and look within yourself for answers to anything.

"it spells it right out. CHOICE. A person's looking for a simple truth to live by, there it is. CHOICE. To refuse to passively accept what we've been handed by nature or society, but to choose for ourselves. CHOICE. That's the difference between emptiness and substance, between a life actually lived and a wimpy shadow cast on an office wall." Despite getting some sort of ridiculous philosophy through a pack of cigarettes, the idea is sound.

Maybe I've just convinced myself that I should have given it more stars...I don't know, I think it was overall just too flippant for my aging taste.