on May 6, 2004
It appears that four out of five people did not find this review helpful. That does not sit well with me because I would hope above all else to be helpful in my reviews; so I will re-write this one.
"Still Life with Woodpecker" is the only Tom Robbins novel I have read and so I cannot compare it any other work of his. But fundamentally it is a tale of love about a redheaded deposed princess living with her deposed king and queen parents just outside of Seattle. Her search for love and meaning in the world while trying to save it from the horrors of destruction, all while falling in love with another red-head who finds purpose in blowing things up, is the majority of the story.
Yet in essence "Still Life with Woodpecker" is less of a story than it is a very long aside about the nature of things and emotions. At least in the end I felt that the plot, in its outrageous plausibility, along with none of the characters being totally worth sympathy, became a side note to the appreciation I had for its wordsmithing and poignant insights, particularly how the narrative exposes its emotions out in the open for all to notice. Unfortunately at various points Tom feels the need to explain in asides what this is all about when I think the story was doing a fine job on its own doing that.
Plus, being a red head myself, it was nice to see how certain aspects of humanity and personality may or may not be embodied in the symbols of our ginger scalps.
on September 19, 1999
I liked it for a while, but I got bored of the same theme, especially since he talks about it so directly. There's only so much you can say about how to make love stay. Actually, it's not really that, it's just that he seemed to keep saying the same thing about how to make love stay. It may not be that either. I just didn't like it all that much, on a somewhat intuitive level, if that means anything at all. I'm not sure why I bothered writing this review, but since I did I suppose I might as well submit it.
on July 9, 2003
Still Life with Woodpecker changed my life the first time I read it. Always one to believe in the power of the moon and the ancient mysteries of the pyramids, I fell in love with this book. Princesses and Outlaws being my favorite heros, and red headed to boot, who could ask for more?
Appoach with your best sense of humor and a copious amount of metaphoric magnanimousness.(snicker...)
Peace, Love and Moonbeams
on March 30, 2005
*Still Life With Woodpecker* is a hilariously funny book about two insane people in love. Bernard M. Wrangle and Leigh-Cheri both move to Hawaii for two different reasons. Leigh-Cheri was visiting Hawaii because she wanted to attend a banquet for environmentalist, and on the way there she meets Bernard. Bernard is a pyromaniac who runs around with sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest. He enjoys lighting fires and blowing up buildings in his spare time. This dynamic duo runs amuck through the Island. Soon the couple falls madly in love with one another and Leigh-Cheri asks Bernard to come back home with her to meet her family. They all have dinner together and it turns out to be a complete bust, her parents hate him and they end up turning him into the FBI. Bernard is in jail now and Leigh-Cheri gets completely depressed and ends up locking herself in her room and comes up with some crazy ideas about the world. Another book I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed was Jackson McCrae's THE CHILDREN'S CORNER which is both disturbing and funny in places. Highly recommended for those with a pulse.
on June 3, 2004
Tom Robbins is perhaps one of the most winsome and unforgettable novelist of the late 20th century. In a series of absurdist novels, he has memorably stretched the boundaries of what can be said and how with some of the most creative, artful, and poetic turns of words this side of Shakespeare. His celebration of the central absurdities of modern life provide the matte on which he paints indelible portraits of contemporary human lives in motion, from characters as memorably unique as Sissy Hankshaw in "Even Cowgirls get The Blues" to our intrepid "Woodpecker" in this novel. Robbins is anything but predictable, and to the reader's considerable advantage, he always takes a slapstick look at things we might otherwise disregard or take to be a fact of life, so that when he renders a fact of contemporary culture much more recognizable in all its absurd colors and hues, we come to appreciate the method in his madness. In that sense, Still Life With Woodpecker" is a work of art indeed.
Indeed, amid the carnage of everyday life, full of its endless claptrap and rife with people trying to get by with slogan management, our heroine struggles to find her way clear to some sort of better and more meaningful life, in spite of her well-intentioned parents' attempts to sway her almost irresistibly onto the eventual path of the numbing conformity they think life has for its reward. Like Sissy Hankshaw before her, mere convention cramps her style and her spirit, and in her own way struggles to be free. Enter the Woodpecker, of the outlaw species, cynic extraordinaire, fast talker, hard lover, and a wild-eyed redhead to boot (hence the Woodpecker moniker), and suddenly everything changes. A few clues here: Robbins is asking the most central and profound of contemporary questions in this work; how do you make love stay? And the arguments and insights he contrives to throw in our direction will amuse, entertain, and edify. This is another of the sweet confections Robbins continues to give us, covered over with a wonderful weave of wry words and wisdom, disguised as an entertaining and eminently readable absurdist novel. Enjoy!
on December 10, 2003
Still Life With Woodpecker represents the best and worst of Tom Robbins. The throwaway plot and the characatures that inhabit the Robbins written world can be incredibly tiresome and obnoxious. What is also at work, however, is Robbins' playful sense of humor and engaging philosophy. It is not overblown, super-intellectual dribble; that would be against everything Robbins stands for in his writing. What Robbins does is draw the reader in to a very personal discussion about life, love, and all things related (including Camel cigarettes, blackberries, Ralph Nader, etc) in a funny and open-ended manner.
Tom Robbins leaves as much up to the reader as he shares himself. The book deals with love, the concept of the outlaw in society, and various other topics, but one gets the feeling that Robbins is only sharing as much as he feels is necessary to get a response from the reader. You must approach his work with a light heart, after all, what is the point of doing anything without a sense of humor?
While I loved everything this book gave me, it lacks certain things that make a book great, namely, PLOT and depth in characters. I would recommend the excellent Jitterbug Perfume as a primer for Robbins.
on November 1, 2003
Although the plot is very unique, and Tom Robbins has some interesting things to say, I found the characters often times horribly shallow. _Still Life with Woodpecker_ has a story-telling quality to it, and a story unlike any other. Our main character, the confused and concupiscent Leigh-Cheri leads us through her mind and life, (her life: weird and entertaining; her mind: simple). The plot is different ... very different. Bizarre, sexy, and unique, it provides sufficient interest to the reader. I loved Tom Robbins's expressions and rant about the pyramids; he has a very different way of thinking about things. His writing style is different, which is something incredibly commendable. (This is your incentive to read this book!) Unfortunately, the characters bore me. Leigh-Cheri and her never-ending fascination with her "peachfish" and Bernard and his lack of depth left me unsatisfied ... Robbins looks like he's capable of so much more.
But this book's differences and rants and "theories" make this a ponderous read. It'll make you look at things in different ways, and in that respect it is worth your time. But he could have developed the characters more and he could have had a more meaningful plot.
on July 15, 2003
Robbins fans are usually very fond of Still Life With Woodpecker, as am I. With its basis in the coke spoons and pyramid power of the early 80's I just can't bring myself to think of it as being on par with Even Cowgirls Get The Blues or Another Roadside Attraction, though.
The story of the Princess, the Outlaw, and the pack of Camels is certainly a sharp-witted and fast-paced modern fairy tale. Like other Robbins novels the focus is firmly placed on wordplay and lessons of the...um, free-spirited. Unlike other Robbins novels, the characters are not quite as well drawn.
Don't get me wrong. It's still a masterpiece by almost anyone's standards. The ongoing arguments between the author and his stubborn Remington SL3 are classic. Not a page goes by without at least a few Robbins-isms that you just wish you could remember to use in conversation.
Just start with Even Cowgirls... if you're new to Robbins. Any of them will hook you, but this one isn't the best there is.
on May 27, 2003
Looking through most of the reviews written about "still life" it appears there are just two opinions, the greatest book ever or complete garbage. I found myself caught between the camps and unusually confused about what I thought about Mr Robinson's book. I roared with laughter at parts, thought other sections mere juvenille bathroom humor and found other pieces thought provoking. Woodpecker is a tale of the red headed romance between outlaw and sex crazed do gooding exiled princess, nothing strange about that you may say, if you do Woodpecker is right up your street. The characters are weird but interesting, the story is mad but compelling in a non intellectual way. Despite what others say I didn't find the meaning of life between it's covers, but does every novel have to explore the human condition. Maybe read heads deserve having their own condition explored just once. Personally I enjoyed all the men hating, tree hugging, caring groups at the festival being ridiculed, but that's just my own bias shining through. The bottom line is that it was great fun to read, what more can you ask, should you ask more?
on March 25, 2003
It would appear that Robbins set out to create an instant cult classic when he released Still Life with Woodpecker. Thumbing through some of the customer reviews on this page it would appear that he's had some degree of success in achieving this goal, and when I bought the book the red-headed girl at the cash register positively beamed when she saw me carrying it to the counter (proclaiming it the *best* novel ever!)
Woodpecker does have its funny moments, and Robbins manages to make a few insightful observations (one that pops to mind is his discussion on the ideas of visionaries being reduced to dogma when embraced by unimaginative zealots). Unfortunately, Robbins buries these nuggets of insight in so much drivel that you have to sort through a lot of nonsense in order to get to them.
As literature Woodpecker is a very thin offering. The characters are one-dimensional outlines that speak and think in clever but unrealistic riddles. A list of the novel's characters reads like a casting call of a bad B-movie: the naïve idealistic red headed princess; the brooding, narcissistic terrorist (also idealistic and red headed); the cuckolded rich Arab; the exiled King and Queen and their wacky servant; the bumbling CIA agent...
It seems that Robbins' goal was to weave these characters into an irreverent, quirky fable. Unfortunately what emerges are a bunch of hollow caricatures that are never given anything interesting to say or do. Robbins flirts with a number of themes that might have been interesting: creating a lasting love, societal pressure to conform, responsibility to self vs. responsibility to others. He raises these themes by inserting them sporadically into the characters' various diatribes and hair brained conspiracy theories, but unfortunately fails to develop them into any sort of idea or concept. He, for instance, goes on ad infinitum about "making love stay" but says nothing interesting on the subject and reaches no conclusion.
As a novel, Woodpecker is all sizzle and no steak. Readers who manage to look beyond the flash and complexity will realize that there is nothing here but a bunch of dreamy confusion. Robbins' clever wordplay caught my attention through the first 50 pages or so, but in the end it makes for a pretty hollow diet once you realize there's no substance underlying.
Yes, it is possible to write a funny novel which also has both weight and intelligence. Try Tristan Egolf's Lord of the Barnyard, Paul Beatty's Tuff, John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces, or Joseph Heller's Catch 22.