This was a fun little book, and though it’s actually wildly different, in many ways I was reminded of Christopher Moore’s Lamb, my first book of the year. Robbins leans less towards the reverence than Moore, but also doesn’t go quite as readily for the cheap laugh, either.
What we have in Jitterbug Perfume is an unfinished quest, three or four rather strange romances (all, in some way resolved with a certain level of satisfaction) and an unusual mediation on the relation between biochemistry and longevity. Oh yes, and beets. I feel better about eating beets, having read this. I can’t really tell you that I was expecting this novel to be quite so grand (although it felt quite small), but after having seen the film adaptation of Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get The Blues it would have been wrong of me to go in with any real expectations at all. They would have been thoroughly confounded.
As is often the case for me with film and literature from the 1980s, I really only liked one or two characters (I don’t know why it is, but I find that the 1980s had an incredible knack for justifying extreme selfishness, and believing that such a thing was somehow likable). Of course those two characters were Alobar, the more or less immortal man, and Priscilla the genius waitress, who showed more patience than I would have (or than a saint most likely would have) at the sexual-assault-level advances of her lesbian best friend.
There was a lot going on in this book, and I’d hate to spoil it for you, so I’ll just say that I’m going to read some of his other books, probably next year, just to see if they live up to this one. Oh yes, also: eat your beets.
Next: The Cheese Monkeys, by Chip Kidd.