|Still Life with Woodpecker
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Still Life with Woodpecker is a sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
- Flawless writing
I started reading this book a few years ago because I had nothing better to do, and a friend of mine had it handy.
I was already awe-struck before I hit "Phase One." Tom Robbins' style is unlike that of any other. He is, without a doubt, the best author that I know of.
This time, Tom Robbins tells the story of Leigh-Cheri Furstenburg-Barcalona, princess-in-exile of some small European country, as well as outlaw Bernard Mickey Wrangle. The cast alone is enough to make the book; but the story is as interesting. And Robbins' narration is perfect.
This book was instantly my favorite, and was until I read Tom Robbins' first novel, "Another Roadside Attraction."
Read it; love it....more info
- The Best In A While...
When a writer can spiderweb philosophy, comedy, romance, genius, and suspense, and make it look like an accident... he places up towards amazing in my book. After reading hum-drum dramas and dispassionate and redundant school "classics," Tom Robbins' brilliance is nothing short of flooring. Full of hilarious one-liners and countless colorful connections, "Still Life With Woodpecker" was without a doubt a book I will pick up again. There is so much jam-packed into this quick read that I'm sure I missed half of his jokes and yet never stopped laughing or crying. I can't wait to go back and read it again. I would recommend it without hesitation to anyone and everyone....more info
- Sexy and Hilarious
Still Life With Woodpecker is a love story about an exiled princess and a crazy bomber in Hawaii. Definitely one of my top ten favorite novels of all time; it is kooky, weird, sexy, unpredictable, and downright hilarious. Cannot recommend it enough, as long as you don't take it or yourself too seriously...more info
- Please excuse me while I hurl...
This book was absolutely horrible. I found it wedged in a crevice next to my rack. Looks like somebody forgot to throw it away. The star of the book, the princess, is one of those whiny young people that tend blame all their problems on everyone else instead of taking credit for their own shortcomings. The book even goes on to glorify criminal activity through the actions of the Woodpecker. I would not recommend this book to people with a level head on their shoulders. I would, however, recommend it to people who insist on being confused about life and people that buy into the whole "everything has a hidden meaning" line of thought....more info
- A Deep Current through Transparent Planes
What one would find within Still Life with Woodpecker is also something found within us all, to an extent. Its great meaning and allegory, in most cases, consists of universal contours of humankind. Like in most of Robbins' works, this book has a plot, yet does not rely on it. It uses the plot to allegorize and communicate meaning. Robbins' writing and use of words is lovely, artistic, intellectual, and deep; yet I feel that I cannot describe my feeling for it or itself in words very well. At times, although, it can become pretentious or excessive. Robbins' description of things can sometimes become retentive or blurred by metaphor. That aside, his writing surpasses the restraint of convention and empty eloquence into its own realm through which Robbins can give us something real, something greater....more info
- Had possibilities
Tom Robbins is in need of a braver editor or a stronger writing coach. Some of what he says is truly clever, such as "I have a black belt in haiku. And a black vest in the cleaners," then he gets carried away with his own cleverness and bogs down his writing. It isn't enough to have one metaphor--he throws in 4 or more, which even Shakespeare would have difficulty pulling off. The dialogue is quite often composed of things no human being would ever say. I could not find the characters believable or likable, though the servant Gulietta, provided some comic relief....more info
- Oscar Wilde in a bong
If you're looking for a smooth romance story then move on. The plot is a drug crazed raving which serves as a meagre bookshelf for Robbins to display his mastery of the absurd metaphor. Robbins writes like he's on fire - or on speed (though he hints cocaine served in plastic frogs is his drug of choice). It is at once brilliant yet impossible in large doses lest one runs the risk of an OD. His writing is brilliant, funny and much like those 3D pictures - utter nonsense which makes perfect sense when you look 3 feet past it and cross your eyes. If you follow that much you should enjoy this book....more info
- On a scale of one to sexy, this book is a.....
The detail of this book is impeccable. Even with a high-powered microscope it is hard to catch all the brilliance of this book. More impressively, all the detail weaves together flawlessly to create such heavily layered, coherent, and wonderfully paradoxical ideas. On a scale of 1 to sexy, this book is a 9.9...more info
- "Outlaw Territory"
i have now read 4 TR books, and this one is probably my second favorite of them. very funny, engaging read that i could barely put down. i liked the characters, and the woodpecker reminded me a bit of larry diamond (from half asleep in frog pajamas, my fave). tom robbins is probably my favorite author, and this is just one example why, the man has a way with words unmatched by any other author ive ever read (and i read a lot!)...more info
- Reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk...
The style of Tom Robbins in this book really reminds me of an older version of Chuck Palahniuk, with the bizzare story line, mixed with poetry, social commentary, and a collection or random facts...a great love story in the most unorthodox way. I've reccomended this book to everyone I know. I'm so sad that I read it in 1 day because I wanted it to go on forever.......more info
- A sort of love story...
Still Life With Woodpecker represents the best and worst of Tom Robbins. The throwaway plot and the characatures that inhabit the Robbins written world can be incredibly tiresome and obnoxious. What is also at work, however, is Robbins' playful sense of humor and engaging philosophy. It is not overblown, super-intellectual dribble; that would be against everything Robbins stands for in his writing. What Robbins does is draw the reader in to a very personal discussion about life, love, and all things related (including Camel cigarettes, blackberries, Ralph Nader, etc) in a funny and open-ended manner.
Tom Robbins leaves as much up to the reader as he shares himself. The book deals with love, the concept of the outlaw in society, and various other topics, but one gets the feeling that Robbins is only sharing as much as he feels is necessary to get a response from the reader. You must approach his work with a light heart, after all, what is the point of doing anything without a sense of humor?
While I loved everything this book gave me, it lacks certain things that make a book great, namely, PLOT and depth in characters. I would recommend the excellent Jitterbug Perfume as a primer for Robbins....more info
When my brother gave me this book for Christmas, he told me to "drink in the writing." Or something to that effect. Whatever it was, he heaped praise on Robbins' use of language. Several people in my family had read this, or some other Tom Robbins book, and they all enthusiastically agreed that reading him was a pleasure unto itself, above and beyond the enjoyment one gets from reading the actual story. I was promised an actual Reading Experience, and that promise was fulfilled in spades.
Reading Robbins is like sitting through a storm. His words flow down the page like the acid dreams of a long-reformed hippie. They dance and spin, curling into strange and exotic shapes that you can't quite take in on the first read, so you look at the page again, convinced that there must have been something there that you missed. You find yourself at the end of a section, convinced that you've read it, but not entirely sure what you've read. Or you go back and read it again just because reading it the first time was just such fun.
Most modern writers do their best to keep you involved in the story, to keep the writing from drawing attention to itself. Much in the same way that many filmmakers try to keep you from thinking, "Oh, I'm looking through a camera," so do writers try to keep you from thinking about the words - their lens through which they transmit their message and images. Robbins completely eschews this principle - not only does he make sure you notice his words, he goes out of the way to make the words themselves more interesting than the story.
This is not to say that the story isn't interesting, of course. It is a romance, albeit a strange and brambly one. A young princess, the only child of an exiled king and queen, has vowed to devote her life to the betterment of the Earth, to use her royal station to help the world and to absolutely never fall in love - or even have sex - again. For very good reasons, of course. Nothing like having a miscarriage while cheerleading for your college football team to dampen your reproductive urges. This plan works up until she gets to a ecology conference in Maui, where she meets the man of her nightmares - a notorious terrorist who is nicknamed the Woodpecker.
The Woodpecker (his real name is Bernard) is a self-professed outlaw, a man who takes joy in subverting order, thumbing his nose at authority and living with a complete disregard for legal niceties such as not blowing things up. He's been in prison and escaped, and has only a short time until the statute of limitations finally runs out. This doesn't stop Bernie from bringing dynamite with him to Maui, and under the influence of alcohol and lust and rage, he tips his hand too soon. The only thing standing between him and prison is the beautiful red-headed princess - Leigh-Cherie - who hates him at first sight and swears that there is absolutely nothing about him that she finds redeeming.
We all know where that kind of thinking leads.
They fall in love, of course, a whirlwind outlaw romance that is only put to rest when Bernie finally lands back in prison. As a show of solitude to her lover, Leigh-Cherie locks herself in her room, turning it into a cell to mirror that of her beloved, and swears not to leave it until he leaves his. The only things in the room are a bed, a chamber pot, and a pack of Camel cigarettes.
That's where things start to get weird.
The nice thing about this book is that you don't really have to ponder what the themes were - Robbins points them out quite clearly by the end of the book, so if you didn't get it the first time, you'll be able to get it the next time 'round. It's a story about love, of course, and the irrational, weird turns it can take. It's about history, about the great, never-ending "why" that drives us from one act to the next. And, interestingly enough, it's about our relationship with the physical world, from the greatest of the Egyptian pyramids to the most mundane pack of Camels.
During her self-inflicted time in solitary, Leigh-Cherie constructs a vast universe inside the label of her cigarettes (which she never actually smokes) and it leads her to truths and realizations that would confound the greatest philosopher or the most devoted mystic. By contemplating the mundane, she finds the key to the universe.
Speaking of relating to objects, the story itself is a kind of romance between Robbins and his typewriter - a Remington SL3 - which doesn't, insofar as I have been able to tell, exist. Theirs is a tumultuous love. It begins with a tentative love, a hope that the machine is The One for this book. It passes through admiration and infatuation, only to end with rejection as Robbins finishes the book in longhand.
As Robbins relates to his Remington, and Leigh-Cherie to her pack of Camels, so do we have relationships with objects. We become familiar with our possessions, imbuing them with character and personality. Not only that, but once we give consideration to the history of that object - its design and manufacturing, where the idea and the materials came from - we find that we can read the history of the universe in something as simple as a paper clip.
It's a weird and wonderful book. The characters are vibrant and real, in a kind of hyper-real way. It's funny and bright, changing pace and rhythm from page to page and really is a delight to sit and read. Even more fun to read aloud, actually, so if you have a chance to do that, jump and take it....more info
- being a redhead...
I was recommended this book by a dear friend who, on seeing my mane of bright red hair for the first time, simply handed me the book with a smile on her face. It is a great read, lots of fun, and offers one of the best explainations on why us redheads are the way we are that I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot of explainations). Not meant to be taken too seriously, but offering a philosophy for the dreamers out there, this book is sure to entertain and delight many readers who've always wondered...what IS the problem of redheads?...more info
- Great read
I really loved this book, being a huge Tom Robbins fan i have to say this is one of my favorites. Read it! youll be a better person because of it....more info
- An Experimental Absurdist Masterwork Of A Novel!
Tom Robbins is perhaps one of the most winsome and unforgettable novelist of the late 20th century. In a series of absurdist novels, he has memorably stretched the boundaries of what can be said and how with some of the most creative, artful, and poetic turns of words this side of Shakespeare. His celebration of the central absurdities of modern life provide the matte on which he paints indelible portraits of contemporary human lives in motion, from characters as memorably unique as Sissy Hankshaw in "Even Cowgirls get The Blues" to our intrepid "Woodpecker" in this novel. Robbins is anything but predictable, and to the reader's considerable advantage, he always takes a slapstick look at things we might otherwise disregard or take to be a fact of life, so that when he renders a fact of contemporary culture much more recognizable in all its absurd colors and hues, we come to appreciate the method in his madness. In that sense, Still Life With Woodpecker" is a work of art indeed.
Indeed, amid the carnage of everyday life, full of its endless claptrap and rife with people trying to get by with slogan management, our heroine struggles to find her way clear to some sort of better and more meaningful life, in spite of her well-intentioned parents' attempts to sway her almost irresistibly onto the eventual path of the numbing conformity they think life has for its reward. Like Sissy Hankshaw before her, mere convention cramps her style and her spirit, and in her own way struggles to be free. Enter the Woodpecker, of the outlaw species, cynic extraordinaire, fast talker, hard lover, and a wild-eyed redhead to boot (hence the Woodpecker moniker), and suddenly everything changes. A few clues here: Robbins is asking the most central and profound of contemporary questions in this work; how do you make love stay? And the arguments and insights he contrives to throw in our direction will amuse, entertain, and edify. This is another of the sweet confections Robbins continues to give us, covered over with a wonderful weave of wry words and wisdom, disguised as an entertaining and eminently readable absurdist novel. Enjoy!...more info
- cliches, dim wit, and forced weirdness
The advertised love story is kind of interesting, earning a star. At first the characters all seem to be either irritatingly dim-witted or simply irritating, but after a while it becomes amusing. The story, however, doesn't receive as much attention as the other two components of the book.
Mostly, Robbins offers readers an astoundingly painful slog through page after page of philosophical cliches, usually presented in metaphors that try a bit too hard to be weird.
Interspersed are stories from the author's past -- heavily laden with rationalizations of alternately selfish, foolish, and chauvanistic behavior....more info
- Overkill on everything
This is the ridiculous tale of an outcast princess who is enfatuated with Ralph Nader and falls in love with a witty terrorist because of his hair color. Robbins set out to create a funny story with serious undertones that could be appreciated by anyone with enough time or intelligence to catch all the metaphors. I have to agree with several other reviewers though, that he went way overboard on the wackiness, and it is distracting. I thought Robbins wrote this book a little self-consciously, trying really hard to be funny and impress his readers with over-the-top word-play. Unfortunately, the characters were irritating and completely two-dimensional, which is what I think Robbins was trying to go for to add to the humor element, but I personally just wanted to puke everytime I heard the princess talking about her "peachfish." I would only recommend this book to those with totally out-there senses of humor and/or tolerance for relentless metaphors and completely off-the-wall characters....more info
- Out There, but that's its charm
I read this book when I was in the Army in the 1980s, and I just read it again, my suggestion as the first book for a newly-started book club.
Although I remember it being a bit quirky, I really had no memory of this book when I reread it. That probably has more to do with the passing years and the passing brain cells than it does the book itself.
I was surprised by the sex in the book. Weird that this is the first thing that strikes me about the book as I am far from prudish. It is not too much, but it is a bit graphic at times and I was surprised by that, but not really bothered.
This book, through its use of word-play, through its wild story, really has something poetic and romantic to say. There is not a ton of dialogue - a plus for me - and it spends a great deal of time sort of explaining its philosophy through the characters and the events. At the end it puts it into dialogue.
Certainly read this if you want something different and entertaining. As one reviewer wrote, it is amazing how contemporary it is seeing how it was written 20 years ago....more info
- A Study of Redheads
This is a light and entertaining book from a word-play genius. What is amazing is the way he weaves so many stories into a tidy, compact little package - almost the size of a pack of cigarettes, as a matter of fact.
This is a story about a tarnished princess, an outlaw bomber with bad teeth, a scene stealing if somewhat undomesticated loyal servant, toads - both real and plastic, an exiled King and his "Oh-Oh, spaghetti-o" Queen, a CIA not-so-secret agent, an outraged Middle Eastern playboy, blackberries, Camels, Ralph Nader, pyramids and aliens from Argon.
What more could you possibly want in a book?
Tom Robbins has a genuine talent for words and puns, and those with active funny bones will be tickled throughout. His casual use of words like "slishy" and phrases like "I have a black belt in haiku" abound, to be discovered with unbridled delight.
This is a book to be enjoyed within one lunar cycle without fear of repercussions....more info
- Clever and Addictive
This is the first book I've read by Tom Robbins and I was very pleased. His writing is lyrical and clever, chock full of the skeptical social commentary that I love. The story is an easy read, and his short chapters make it easy to say, "Just one more..." The characters' thoughts are, whether serious or absurd, always memorable....more info
- Life changing experience? Definitely
This book... there are no words to describe this book, other than the words, hidden on a pack of Camel Cigaretts. CHOICE is one of the most powerfull mesages that the Argonian redheads could muster throught the interdimensional rift between where they were exiled and where we live. The word embodies this book, you have a CHOICE to make. Do you want this book to change your life? Do you want to understand the purpose of the moon? Do you want to find yourself looking at redheads in a new light? Are you ready to find out exactly what love is, how to find it, and the ways to make it stay? Believe me I will never look the same at the moon. I can truely tell you, that I know why love doesnt stay for most. I too am going to become a missionary for this book, reccomending, and giving it to people. It really has been a life changing experience, and I am gratefull to my friend for telling me to read it.
I have never taken as much care to read every single word carefully, to understand every single sentence in a book, nor have I ever taken this long to read one. I read it off and on for 4 months. I have never felt so good when finishing a book as I did with this one, it was an accomplishment, like ending up where you intended after an adventure, but still bieng enriched by the experience, and gaining new wisdom and knowledge from it. I do not mean to attack the people who have written the other reviews, but if you didnt like this book you obveously didnt get the point, or scope of it, or are too narrow minded to look at it from multiple perspectives and read the underlying connections throughout the book.
I am both happy and proud to say that I have, since reading this book been mistaken for a redhead. Perhaps its all the snappy quotes I have picked up from the book, or the new insight on how to look at inanimate objects. The book ends so well, that even if I wanted to ruin the book for you and tell you what happens, it wouldnt work, because the point of the book isnt at the end, its throughout the book, the end is just the time where the pieces fall into place.
The most affecting part of the book for me was the powerfull last 2 quotes. Eerily potent and appropriate. i picked up this book expecting a good story, I ended up with much much more....more info
- Great wordsmithing
It appears that four out of five people did not find this review helpful. That does not sit well with me because I would hope above all else to be helpful in my reviews; so I will re-write this one.
"Still Life with Woodpecker" is the only Tom Robbins novel I have read and so I cannot compare it any other work of his. But fundamentally it is a tale of love about a redheaded deposed princess living with her deposed king and queen parents just outside of Seattle. Her search for love and meaning in the world while trying to save it from the horrors of destruction, all while falling in love with another red-head who finds purpose in blowing things up, is the majority of the story.
Yet in essence "Still Life with Woodpecker" is less of a story than it is a very long aside about the nature of things and emotions. At least in the end I felt that the plot, in its outrageous plausibility, along with none of the characters being totally worth sympathy, became a side note to the appreciation I had for its wordsmithing and poignant insights, particularly how the narrative exposes its emotions out in the open for all to notice. Unfortunately at various points Tom feels the need to explain in asides what this is all about when I think the story was doing a fine job on its own doing that.
Plus, being a red head myself, it was nice to see how certain aspects of humanity and personality may or may not be embodied in the symbols of our ginger scalps....more info
- Tom Robbins is a New Literary Genius
Still Life with Woodpecker, is, hands down, one of the most eccentric novels I have ever come across but at the same time one of the most masterful. Tom Robbins's diction is immaculate and incredibly articulate. He expresses himself with such ease while discussing various philosophical topics that are in no way easily described. He shows no shame in illustrating sexually graphic scenes and bringing up controversial subject matter that most authors would not dare to discuss. I doubt that any author would have the audacity to narrate the scene when Princess Leigh Cheri and the Woodpecker are comparing the burning glow of their fiery red pubic hairs and there is a drop of juice stuck to her single hair that had dripped from her excited "peachfish." This book is about outlaws, the dejected outlook on living in the last quarter of the twenty-first century, how to make love stay, pregnant cheerleaders who drop out of school, and the fascination with redheads. All of the types of subjects that Robbins relates to seem to only be subjects that are lingering aimlessly in the very back of your mind. However, because his writing is so zany and kitsch, it makes his erratic thoughts interesting. He says things that no one would ever think of. He keeps things alive. But this book is so much more than just some crazy story that seems to have developed from someone mumbling while they were tripping on acid. This book is about an outlook on love and on life. There is a message behind the madness. Robbins teaches you how to get past the obstacles that keep you from eternal bliss. This book has changed my outlook on a number of issues and themes. I recommend this book to anyone that has the time and energy to engage in a delightfully thought-provoking novel. ...more info
- This book will change your life
Perhaps I am biased. Perhaps this book is only good for those willing to let Robbins express himself through a terrorist and a princess, and his ever incessant relationship with the moon. This is the perfect book for any hopeless romantic, John Cusack fan, or anyone in need of a good old fashioned fairy tale. Being a hopeless romantic John Cusack fan who loves a good fairy tale, I found this book to be the greatest love story of all time. It changed my life - although strange "coincidences" occured, I could not help but think that something about this book was steering me in the right directions. Robbins will make your dark days seem much lighter, your heart feel softer, and your distaste for Seattle's weather grow stronger after reading this book. You won't want to put it down, and when you do, you'll just want to read it all over again. I gave this book to my boyfriend in hopes that he would "get the hint" (you'll understand if you read it!) and surprisingly enough, he did! That must mean something. Having read all T.R's novels, Still Life is the only one I've read repeatedly - 4 times in the past year - without getting sick of his metaphors and rambling tangents. This is a beautiful modern fairy tale with all the right signs for how to make love stay. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone who isn't afraid to know that it's never too late to have a happy childhood....more info
I'm buying this book for a second time. I love Robbin's rhythm. This book in particular will let you in on the secret of us red heads! Enjoi!...more info