JITTERBUG PERFUME by Tom Robbins
Kirkus Star

JITTERBUG PERFUME

KIRKUS REVIEW

A round-Robbins on the themes of scent, so-called "floral consciousness," and immortality--skipping through time and space, but offering a little old-fashioned storytelling charm along with the usual cute/hip doodling. In one of the two parallel plot-lines here, Robbins juggles the separate attempts of various parfumiers around the world to come up with a perfume (upon a jasmine base) that will outenchant any previous concoction: Madame Devalier in New Orleans is feverishly experimenting; so is her adopted daughter Priscilla in Seattle; and the megs-company LeFever is also hard at work in Paris. Meanwhile, in the other main plot, we follow King Alobar--a Dark Ages hero--through his global wanderings: he eventually reaches India, meeting a widow named Kudra; both of them are in flight from Death; and both eventually, through the direct intervention of the decrepit god Pan, actually achieve immortality--even learning how to capture the immortality-essence in bottled-liquid form. So ultimately, of course, these two plot-strands will link up--as Alobar time-travels up to the present, providing the evolutionary missing-link to "floral consciousness". . . and teaming up with a Timothy Learylike outlaw scientist, Dr. Wiggs Dannyboy, who adds a bit of new-age theory to Robbins' usual flower-power rhetoric. ("Philosophers have argued for centuries about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but materialists have known all along that it depends on whether they are jitterbugging or dancing cheek to cheek.") As in all of Robbins' novels, there is much that's juvenile and insufferable here: terminally cute asides and many, many groaners--e.g., "a populace that was beginning to put Descartes before des horse." Still, the mundane/exotic enterprise of making perfume offers a rich basis for Robbins' half-credible, half-cartoonish explorations. And, thanks to its lively sweep through time and geography, this may be his most agreeable book ever: relaxed, readably sequential, goofily lyrical--with some feather-weight appeal for non-fans as well as the usual Robbins readership.
Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0553348981
Page count: 356pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1984




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