OMG. How is it possible that I had not read this novel till now? Okay, I suspect it’s because I confused Tom Robbins with Harold Robbins, and the title of the novel did nothing to discourage me from thinking it might be on the lines of Harold’s smut fest. How terrible is that?
Thankfully, this list pointed me in the right direction. So how did I love this book? Let me count the ways.
1. The protagonist has an unusual body feature. Instead of being ashamed of it, she embraces it. She rides on it – literally – to the realm of the fabulous, leaving in her trail normality and its cousin boredom.
I wish I had read this when I was growing up, I hated my nose. There were enough intelligent people there to tell me that it gave my face character, but it offended my own sense of aesthetics, one that was drawn to symmetry. I fantasised vaguely but not seriously about plastic surgery. Finally, I grew up and my face grew into my nose. I now love my nose as the one angular feature of my face that has been rounded out by fat. I might even consider crowning it with a nose ring.
There were probably narratives when I was growing up about the value of the things that make us stand out and I’m sure absorbing them kept my angst about my nose in check, but this particular narrative is stunning enough to completely shake a teenager out of the stupor of conformity and onto the route of audacity, the path on which one not only accepts one’s unusual traits but revels in them.
2) The writing is, for lack of a better word, awesome. Playful and profound at one go. I was under the impression that it wasn’t possible for Anglo-American culture to use magical realism, but if Robbins’s style cannot be classified as magical realism per se, then it comes very close to it.
3) The tidbits of philosophy and wisdom on every second page crystallised almost everything I’ve been thinking these days and been hard pressed to articulate. I’m afraid to post any examples for fear of them sounding trite. The entire book is a treatise on breaking free and finding one’s own way and just enjoying life.
It’s possible that this book might be to the 25-35 age group (note that it appeared on a reading list for one’s 20s) what Catcher in the Rye is to the 18-25 age bracket, and that in my 40s, I’ll look on the whole thing with a self-indulgent smirk but for now, I’m getting my own copy.