The whirling dervish lit-hippie of Seattle fires off a shotgun-full of enthusiasms at whatever strikes his fancy—and occasionally hits.
Novelist Robbins (Villa Incognito, 2003, etc.) is hardly the kind of writer to exercise restraint, and indeed a restrained Robbins wouldn’t be any fun. But even just a little bit of Robbins can be too much, and the proof is in this collection of short fiction, nonfiction, ruminations and poems. The feast of stories included were originally mostly magazine pieces—for Esquire, GQ, Artforum, High Times, etc.—that span almost four decades. Robbins has a lot of likes, and what he likes he really, really likes. Take his spastic review of a Doors concert: “Their style is early cunnilingual, late patricidal…carnivores in a land of musical vegetarians.” He can wax enthusiastic on everything from Wonder Bread and mayonnaise (two of the main ingredients of his last dinner, should he ever be on death row) to his rain-soaked hometown of Seattle. Sometimes it all gets drowned in tidal waves of excess. There are still some gems amid the hollering and clowning. On Leonard Cohen: “Nobody can say the word ‘naked’ as nakedly as Cohen. He makes us see the markings where the pantyhose have been.” On Thomas Pynchon: “Pynchon has got both hands on the thunderbolt machine.” He even makes a good travel piece out of a search for Nevada’s legendary Canyon of the Vaginas. But then there’s that awfully unfunny fake feature film treatment and all the poetry. Lord, the poetry.
Fun for a time, but marred by the suspicion that Robbins may be trying too hard.