Tits MCGee CBR III 8 Jitterbug Perfume

I walked into a Munroe’s books with no idea what I wanted and had a pleasant surprise when I ran into Debbie Willis, a local author who wrote Vanishing and Other Stories. I asked for a little bit of advice, the only parameter was that it needed to be fun and light-hearted. The last few books I’ve read (with the exception of the Night’s Dawn Trilogy) have been really serious, even verging on depressing. She suggested Tom Robbins’s Jitterbug Perfume, and since I’ve always wanted to check out his books, I picked it up.

As soon as I started reading, I knew I was in the hands of a master story-teller and writer. One with a sense of humour at that.

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious… The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…”

Jitterbug Perfume is a story about beets, immortality, perfume, body odour, nature, sex, and bathing habits. It’s not really a fantasy, but it’s not without fantasy either. The story weaves its roots through human history, starting with an ancient aging king who discovers individuality, much to the confusion of those around him, and ending in the present with an oddball assortment of perfumers. It’s interesting, but not gripping, and I found that while the writing pulled me in, the plot wasn’t compelling enough to keep my attention through the whole book.

Despite the slow-move plot, Robbins’s writing combined with well written and interesting characters make for a fun read. The characters’ lives fold together in believable and natural ways given the subject matter, and while they weren’t easy to relate to, they were believably and enjoyably eccentric. The book certainly met my criteria. It wasn’t even remotely depressing, and managed to make light of some of humanity’s most furious philosophical debates, including our relationship with nature, god and death.

While I was in awe of his writing ability, I also felt a bit like Robbins was toying with me. It was as though he has achieved everything he wanted to as a writer and is simply having fun at this point, playing with combinations of words and making vaguely philosophical statements about religion and individuality. I would read another book by Robbins, but it would have to be at the right time and when I was in the right mood. I’d also like to experience his first novel to see if there is a bit more spark to compliment his talent.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

2 responses to “Tits MCGee CBR III 8 Jitterbug Perfume

  1. I would try Still Life With Woodpecker if you read another of his. That was the first Robbins book I read and it’s still the best by far. I honestly can’t even remember much plot details but I remember it having a crazy, gripping one, if that was your issue with Jitterbug Perfume. Now I’m making myself want to reread it…

  2. woodlandia

    Thanks! I will check that one out. I still feel like the plot had all the elements that would usually grab me and not let go, but somehow it didn’t. I’m really perplexed why I’m not shouting out my love for this book across the rooftops.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s