On my business card, you’ll find my favorite book listed as Another Roadside Attraction. Yes, the 1971 “cult” classic from the idiosyncratic Tom Robbins, who, for more than four decades, has been alternately beloved and ridiculed for his offbeat novels.
I love Robbins and nearly everything he’s written (for which I have received my own share of ridicule). Ever since I first read Roadside in high school, I was hooked. And not just because he captured what was left of the free-wheeling, vibrant 1960s, a decade I wishI had experienced; he also showed a young reader the fantastic possibility of language stripped of limits.
My tastes are catholic—I read everything from Shakespeare to sportswriter Bill Simmons—but Robbins will always remain a fixture. He has been accused of obscenity, misogyny, pseudo-intellectualism, communism and many other nasty-isms—and even, gasp!, not taking the duties of a novelist seriously. However, it’s obvious in the pages of his first memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie, that he takes his work as a writer—and more specifically, as a crafter of language that both advances and complements the story—quite seriously.
Like Vonnegut before him, Robbins has always understood the necessity of humor and irreverence, of playfully drawing out certain universal truths, and our shared humanity, without relying on heavy-handed pathos. Sure, the Technicolor metaphors come swift and loud, but what impressively cockeyed celebrations of language and life, of acknowledging unadulterated joy as the gift that it is!
Thought-provoking, hilarious and decidedly left of center, Robbins is pure literary crack, and Tibetan Peach Pie is a fitting series of reflections on a distinctive, and often undervalued, writing career.
Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor at Kirkus Reviews.