Sunday, March 4, 2012

Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas - Tom Robbins

1994; 386 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Contemporary Fiction; Humor.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    The Thursday before Easter has been the worst day of Gwendolyn Mati's life.  She's a stockbroker in Seattle, and the market has just crashed like a go-kart in a destruction derby.  She'll probably lose her job on Monday (the market's closed on Good Friday) unless she figures out a way to cover up her losses.  If she doesn't come up with something, she can kiss her dreams of wealth and affluence goodbye.

    But hang on to your tattered panties, Gwendolyn, because your life is about to get as surreal as a Salvador Dali painting on acid.  Your boyfriend's born-again monkey has escaped, your 300-lb Tarot-reading girlfriend has disappeared, and some long-haired wacko just back from Timbuktu says the fun is just beginning.

What's To Like...
    Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas is told in the second-person.  When's the last time you've read a book from that perspective?  To boot, a male author crawls inside a female character's head, and that's always a challenge.

    Our heroine is not all that likeable - and that's a plus for me.  She's greedy, manipulative, and a bit of a snot.  But she has a good heart, a good head, and a good bod; so things kinda even out.

    And of course, this is Tom Robbins, which means you're being treated to some great writing, some zany plotlines, and humor that ranges from subtle to slapstick.  Robbins has a gift of creating unique and fascinating personalities, and here you're given a bonus of about a zillion similes/metaphors that rival even Terry Pratchett for sheer hilarity.

Kewlest New Word...
Isochronous : occurring at the same time.

    Belford is lying on the bed, eyes closed and an expression on his face that could end three Italian operas and still have enough anguish left over to butter an existentialist's toast.  You lie down beside him.  You wish only to comfort him, you tell yourself - as if Belford could not be comfortable with his fly fully buttoned.  (pg. 58)

    No, no, no.  Ridiculous.  Animals, even intelligent animals - perhaps most especially intelligent animals - do not share man's pathetic need to socialize bliss, codify awe, pigeonhole the Mystery, and tame the Divine.  For an ape, born twice is entirely redundant, since an ape gets it right the first time.  At least, that is how Q-Jo has put it.  Personally, you haven't a clue in spiritual matters, but you do know, or deeply suspect, that a monkey who once mingled with aristocrats in Swiss ski resorts and movie stars on the French Riviera, would find the company of Seattle Lutherans drab, dour, and dorky beyond all belief.  (pg. 228)

Mediocrity's a hairball coughed up on the Persian carpet of Creation.  (pg. 158)
    For all its wit and wackiness, HAIFP will never be touted as Robbins' tour de force.  The stock market setting doesn't make for lots of thrills and spills, and the theme - that we Americans are too materialistic - while probably true, has been done to death.

    The ending is a letdown.  A number of plotlines never get resolved, which means you end up with enough MacGuffins to stage a family reunion.  Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas screams for a sequel, but none has been penned in the ensuing 18 years.

    It's still worth 7½ Stars, cuz it is Tom Robbins, and it is a delight to read.  Just don't get too involved in the storyline itself, and tell yourself that it has an existential ending.

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