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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins. New York: Bantam Books, 1994. ISBN: 0553076256

You read this book because you felt you owed it to yourself to complete the Tom Robbins oeuvre, since, among other factors, he lives “near Seattle,” according to the book’s dust jacket, and you once lived in Seattle for several years. And because as an author, Tom Robbins has a certain cachet in certain circles, and you thoroughly enjoyed some of his earlier novels, especially Jitterbug Perfume and Skinny Legs and All. In fact, Jitterbug Perfume is on your list of books that you want to reread at some point.

You are also aware that a Tom Robbins novel always seems to have several exotic elements that intrinsically intertwine themselves into the plot, and this one is no exception. Amphibian aliens from Sirius, the “Dog Star,” who visited thousands of years ago, and left mysterious knowledge that is still retained to some degree, at least, by the residents of the venerable African city of Timbuktu, for starters. Plus there’s an escaped pet monkey (in Seattle, not Africa!) that ostensibly belongs to the born-again and not-quite-satisfactory boyfriend of the book’s primary character.

Much of the novel’s action revolves around attempts to locate the missing beast, whose original owners had trained it to rob people’s domiciles of their valuables, and there is naturally concern that André (the monkey) will be tempted to return to his previous nefarious habits, although Belford, the born-again boyfriend, insists that André, too, has given up his evil ways.

But as the novel proceeds, you become fatigued at having to put up with this increasingly annoying second-person viewpoint coming from inside the psyche of our heroine, Gwendolyn, the pert little Filipina stockbroker. Especially, as you realize that your author, Robbins himself, seems to have had the hots for his own creation, which makes for some fairly mawkish prose at times.

And you haven’t even mentioned Gwendolyn’s best friend, the 300-plus pound fortune-teller, Q-Jo, who has also mysteriously disappeared (are she and the monkey hiding out together, or have they been kidnapped?) Or the rough-cut Larry Diamond, a former financial wizard, now just returned from Timbuktu as the “messiah” of the aliens and their mysterious message, toward whom our heroine becomes inextricably drawn as a fly towards flypaper.

While the book has its moments, you can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. For notes on another Robbins title, Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, you would refer your readers, if they exist, to your Sept. 11, 2003 entry.

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