Last night my bookclub met to discuss “Skinny Legs and All” by Tom Robbins. We had chosen to read another book by Tom Robbins after we had all loved “Jitterbug Perfume” so much last year. Unfortunately, the consensus on this book was not good.
I’ve been done with this book for weeks and wanted to write about it, but I like to wait on the bookclub books until after we’ve met so that I can get other opinions. However, I didn’t really care for the book going into the meeting last night and I left with the same opinion heading out.
Now, this is not a terrible book. Don’t get me wrong here. But it is a book that I’m just really apathetic about. It was fine. There were moments that were really entertaining or interesting, but all in all it was just kinda, “meh”. It was anticlimactic and seemed to have a hard time deciding what the point was.
For example, there was a lot of interesting discussion of religion. My favorite part of the book was when he was describing the institutionalization of religion. He says that when religion started, we were like fish in pools of murky water. Searching and leaping around for inspiration. It was mystical, full of magic and mystery and our souls were hot and gritty and part of the earth. Then the idea of religion as institution came in. The fish were taken out of the pools and placed in farms and aquariums. We stay below the surface and are fed predetermined bits of processed fish foods and ideas. Those that jump above the surface looking for more are considered zealots and mystics and are soon put down by the farmers and caretakers, the politicians and priests. Those rebel fish are considered dangerous. He also noted that religion today doesn’t talk about the Soul as much, which is an earthy, vital idea, but talks instead about the Spirit. Air instead of Fire and Earth. He said that institutionalized mysticism is no mysticism at all. I thought his argument was really interesting and well written.
Also, a lot of the story was about art. The question was what makes an artist, what qualifies as art? One of the main characters believes she is an artist and strains to create things that are new and interesting. Her husband is a welder who decided to make something interesting one day and becomes an art sensation. She has a hard time coming to terms with what should count as art and what truly makes an artist. Is it success or something deep within the personality?
There is also a lot about the middle east and about the creation of the new temple and the problems of war, religion, and politics in that area of the world.
And did I mention that in addition to the main, human characters there is also the story of four inanimate objects trying to reach the holy land from the Midwest?
There was a lot going on.
The characters were fun in this story. The talking, moving inanimate objects were fun. There were some interesting points on art and religion. But the problem was that none of them formed a cohesive framework for the story. The “climax” of the story was too leaden with all of these ideas that had been tossed around. It was full of exposition and thought when it should have been fiery and fun.
Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe it is hard to read something mediocre after finishing something fabulous. Either way, this is not a book that I need to read again. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t recommend.