Perhaps as a ferry-riding, flannel-wearing, raindrop-dodging Hipster-Diva, I am pre-disposed to drinking the Tom Robbins' kool-aid. Or spritzing his perfume, as it were. Jitterbug Perfume is a complex, time- and space-bending epic that I loved. But it is not for everybody. It is wildly imaginative, poetic, and sensual. Pulling away from the page was a bit like waking from a deep dreamy sleep. I had to shake my head and remember that flowers emerging as a global replacement for traditional religious consciousness is only one man's elaborately constructed theory in which to define this changing world and his own looming mortality.
Still. To devise such a convoluted, yet so carefully constructed storyline that spans hundreds of years and thousands of miles, includes manufacturing secrets of the notoriously tight-lipped perfume industry and makes the appearance of a lusty man-goat seem completely acceptable is, in a word: Brilliant.
Even the smallest loose ends were addressed and tied up neatly in such a way that I found myself nodding..."OF COURSE a crown of live bees is a proper emblem for ushering in the age of the botanical, what else it could it be!?" and then...
"WHAT am I talking about?!"
Simply, Jitterbug Perfume is the story of a man in love who is obsessed with obtaining immortality, the individuals touched by his life in each generation and the greater human condition that searches for meaning and desires a legacy.
Not as simply, it is a 342 page piece of prose along the likes of that on page 184: "If the waft that streams from a freshly opened hive is intimate to the point of embarrassment (ask any sensitive beekeeper), so it is with beet pollen. There is something personal about it, and something primeval. If there is a comparable odor it is indeed, the moldy inner sanctum of some fermenting, bursting hive; but beet pollen is honey squared, royal jelly cubed, nectar raised to the nth power; the intensified secretions of the Earth's apiarian gland, reeking of ancient bridal chambers and intimacies half as old as time. ...If Pan's musk was the dark and convulsive essence of animal behavior, then beet's musk was its floral counterbalance, the olfactory interface where the fuck of beast and pollenization of plant became roughly equivalent."
Robbins is still very much alive in Washington, and I for one hope that he is observing the specific methods practiced by Alobar and outlined in the text so that he to can live on and continue to produce more fantastic work.
The more I read of Robbins' work, the more I notice his influence in popular culture. Take this argument against the concept of overpopulation from page 279:
"...we don't have an overpopulation problem, we have a land-use problem.
We're sprawlin' out all over the place like hogs in a rose garden... If we were to stress
vertical growth instead o' horizontal, if we were to build tall
apartment complexes instead of acres o' one-story tickey-tackies,
there'd be more than enough room....The rest o' the planet could be
given over to agriculture and recreation. " Now how about the theme song to the popular HBO series Weeds?
While I don't know for certain which came first, the chicken or the egg, I do know that I grew up on stories of an infamous hermit author in the woods outside Seattle, cut off from the world save for his publisher and pharmacist.
Read Jitterbug Perfume with an open mind and solid chunk of time to get lost in the text, and try to remember that "Love, little darlin', defies the laws o' physics. Or, rather it breaks the habits. "(Page 279)