book-reviews

Jitterbug Perfume

by Tom Robbins

Rating: ★★★

While Robbins writes a touchingly humanist, fervently anti-death theme for this quirky Vonnegutian novel about sex, perfume and beets, he manages to do so without really striking a chord with me. I can nod along happily to his message, and note the occasional eloquence in his characters' defence of what is evident to babes but denied by sages -- for sure, that's not the issue.

I think his writing is adequate. Odd at times, occasionally punning, but these are really just light touches, enough to prevent a negative opinion but not enough to really acclaim. His plot is... strangely presented, as if you've wandered into a mystery at some point after the hook has been delivered. I can see he's laying out the trail to the answer, but I was never sure what the question was meant to be. There is in fact no significance to the perfume except in that it was used as a plot device, it imposes itself on events for oblique reasons and then departs, the real machinery having been operating independently and out of sight. It's all just slightly disconnected.

Weird caves and dancing won't get us there, but Robbins is right with the heart of it:

"You want to live and, what is more, you want to live decently and happily, you want to live a life that you yourself have chosen."

But I think we will still need Pan.