Tom Robbins, Author . Bantam $27.50 (256p) ISBN 978-0-553-80332-7

Donald Barthelme once said, "Those who never attempt the absurd never achieve the impossible." Robbins (Still Life with Woodpecker; Jitterbug Perfume; etc.) has made a career of attempting and achieving both, and in this, his eighth novel, he pulls it off again. Here we have weirdness personified, a quirky, outrageous concoction that is a joy to the imagination. The novel begins with the story of Tanuki, a badgerlike Asian creature with a reputation as a changeling and trickster and a fondness for sake. Also part of the cast is a beautiful young woman who may or may not have Tanuki's blood in her veins (but definitely does have a chrysanthemum seed embedded in the roof of her mouth), and three American MIAs who have chosen to remain in Laos long after the Vietnam War. Events are set in motion when one of the MIAs, dressed as a priest, is arrested with a cache of heroin taped to his body. In vintage Robbins style, the plot whirls every which way, as the author, writing with unrestrained glee, takes potshots at societal pillars: the military, big business and religions of all ilks. The language is eccentric, electrifying and true to the mark. A few examples: "The afternoon passed more slowly than a walnut-sized kidney stone"; "He crooned the way a can of cheap dog food might croon if a can of cheap dog food had a voice"; "Dickie's heart felt suddenly like an iron piano with barbwire strings and scorpions for keys." While the ending is a bit of a letdown, this is delectable farce, full of tantalizing secrets and bizarre disguises. Author tour.(May 6)

Reviewed on: 04/14/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-553-38219-8
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7393-0345-0
Compact Disc - 978-0-7366-9332-5
Open Ebook - 163 pages - 978-0-553-90192-4
Downloadable Audio - 1 pages - 978-1-4159-5181-1
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-0743-4
Hardcover - 350 pages - 978-0-7862-5805-5
Hardcover - 241 pages - 978-1-84243-101-6
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