What bothers most critics about my work is the goofiness. One reviewer said I need to make up my mind if I want to be funny or serious. My response is that I will make up my mind when God does, because life is a commingling of the sacred and the profane, good and evil. To try and separate them is a fallacy.
I suspect that not many readers of MillersTime are Tom Robbins’ fans (author of Another Roadside Attraction, 1971, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976, Still Life with Woodpecker, 1980, Jitterbug Perfume, 1984, Skinny Legs and All, 1990, B is for Beer, 2009 and a collection of essays, reviews and short stories, Wild Ducks Flying Backwards, 2005).
And to be truthful, I can’t say as I can recall which of those I read and which ones I read about or never actually read. (My memory, never one of my strengths, is beginning to falter a bit.)
But what I always loved about Robbins’ writing was his voice, a voice so distinctive and so different from most writers that I have trouble naming writers so gifted. Two that do come to mind are Dylan Thomas and Junot Diaz (Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao, 2007 and, particularly, This Is How You Lose Her, 2012).
In the fiction I most enjoy, certainly story is important, especially if there is not too much need for suspension of disbelief (thus I’ve never read a lot of science fiction). And I generally need to like at least one of the characters, no matter how well drawn the less likeable ones may be.
There is no such thing as a weird human being. It’s just that some people require more understanding than others.
Wonderful writing (you know it when you read it) is important too.
Thus, when I come across a writer who not only writes well but who also has a particular or an unusual voice, who uses words in differently than most writers, who writes as almost no one else does, I treasure that.
Using words to describe magic is like using a screwdriver to cut roast beef.
Tom Robbins is such a writer, and he has just published Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life. This one is different from his earlier writings (novels that are irreverent, sometimes bizarre, stories that usually have social criticism and mix comedy with drama, although I’m not sure that description fully captures his writings).
Peach Pie is a memoir of sorts (another of my favorite forms of writing), not exactly a chronological accounting of his life nor an autobiography as we usually know it; it’s more a series of tales, probably mostly true, of what he remembers about his life. He is now nearing 80 but hasn’t lost any of his wonderful ability to put words and ideas together in ways that you’ve rarely experienced them. But there’s nothing bizarre here nor much need to suspend disbelief as is sometimes necessary with his novels.
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
-Tom Robbins, originator of this quote I believe
I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed his earlier work (Robbins was listed as one of the 100 Best Writers of the 20th Century by Writer’s Digest magazine in 2000). I don’t know if his writings from the 70s, 80s and even the 90s have held up well. But I intend to find out as I will now go back to some of his earlier writings as well as some I missed.
I’m not sure if Peach Pie will make it as one of my favorite reads of 2014, but I certainly enjoyed getting reacquainted with Robbins and reading his (mostly?) true account of his (very) imaginative life. He is a writer who Is different from most other current authors and if ‘voice’ is something that attracts you, and if you don’t know Robbins, consider trying one of his books, perhaps any one of those listed at the top left of this post.
The one thing emphasized in any creative writing course is ‘write what you know,’ and that automatically drives a stake through the heart of imagination. If they really understood the mysterious process of creating fiction, they would say, ‘You can write about anything you can imagine.