Sunday, July 18, 2010

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins

If you're in the mood for something completely different (Monty Python fan or not), this is a good starting place. This book was recommended to me by a high school teacher. And like a lot of books I read in high school, this book is rife with symbolism, word play, and literary allusions. However, this book is more suited to a college crowd than high schoolers (IMHO).

Cowgirls is the story of Sissy Hankshaw, a girl born with unusually large thumbs. You learn about her life as a child, her proclivities for hitchhiking, and her occasional work as a model for the Countess, a homosexual entrepreneur dedicated to making women smell better, if you know what I mean.

We follow Sissy, who is not inclined to stay in one place too long, as she ends up on an all-girl ranch, meets a wise Japanese hermit, learns about the mysterious Clock people, and finds her life somehow entangled with that of the whooping crane and the FBI. (Don't think like I did, however, that the FBI is a big part of the plot, "oh, a crime mystery!" It's not.)

This book follows Sissy's life from sometime in the 1940's to sometime in the 1970's. After I read it, I wasn't surprised to learn it was written in 1976 since, as wikipedia puts it, this book was a "favorite of the late 1970's anarchist hippie counterculture."

What I like about this book is that the author has a very stylized way of writing. He writes in first person and is aware that you're reading the book. He'll take time out of telling the story to write interludes and philosophize. He will also describe things in a way you would never image but, when described, seems to be the best way to get his point across. He'll talk about characters you haven't formally met yet which created, for me, a bit of mystery, And then, when I finally understand each character, a bit of an "ah-hah" moment (so THAT's what he was talking about...).

A word of advice, this book probably isn't for everyone. You have to pay attention as you read it. There's no zoning out allowed. The mystery isn't in the story that's told, it's really in the way it's told - in the images and pictures the author uses. And reading becomes more than just learning about Sissy. It's about taking time to think about things that may be directly related or only partially related to the story at hand. But don't worry, the author helps you through all of that.

Apparently, in 1993, this book was made into a movie with a cast including Uma Thurman, Roseanne Arnold, Pat Morita, Keau Reaves, and even William Burroughs (a poet and author from the beat generation with a colorful life, to say the least). Like the book, this offers to be something completely different, but based on its reviews, I'd recommend you just stick to the reading the book.

Reviewed by Cathy

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