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Skinny Legs and All by [Robbins, Tom]
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In a phantasmagorical, politically charged tale you wish would never end, Robbins holds forth--through a variety of ingenious, off-beat mouthpieces--on art (with and without caps), the Middle East, religious fanaticism of many stripes, and the seven veils of self-deception. Salome, skinny legs and all, belly-dances rapturously at Isaac & Ishmael's, a much-molested restaurant located across the street from the U.N., founded by an Arab and a Jew as an example of happy, peaceful and mutually beneficial coexistence. Ellen Cherry Charles, artist and waitress, heir to the most positive legacy of Jezebel, works at the same joint, nursing a broken heart inflicted by Boomer Petway, redneck welder/bemused darling of the New York art scene. Meanwhile, Can o' Beans, Dirty Sock, Spoon, Painted Stick and Conch Shell traverse half the world on a hejira to Jerusalem--where Conch and Painted Stick will resume religious duties in the Third Temple, dedicated (of course) to Astarte. Unless, mind you, Ellen Cherry's boil-encrusted uncle Buddy, a radio evangelist who gets turned on by Tammy Faye Bakker, manages to start WW III first. . . . Robbins's ( Jitterbug Perfume ) lust for laughs is undiminished; this prescription for sanity couldn't be better. 125,000 first printing; first serial to Esquire; BOMC and QPB selections; author tour.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A painter's struggle with her art, a restaurant opened as an experiment in brotherhood, the journey of several inanimate objects to Jerusalem, a preacher's scheme to hasten Armageddon, and a performance of a legendary dance: these are the diverse elements around which Robbins has built this wild, controversial novel. Ellen Cherry Charles, one of the "Daughters of the Daily Spe cial" in Jitterbug Perfume ( LJ 1/85), takes center stage. She has married Boomer Petway and moved to New York, hoping to make it as a painter. Instead, she winds up a waitress at the Isaac and Ishmael, a restaurant co-owned by an Arab and a Jew. Robbins's primary concern is Middle Eastern politics, supplemented along the way with observations on art, religion, sex, and money. Few contemporary novelists mix tomfoolery and philosophy so well. This is Robbins at his best. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/90.
- Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1236 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (June 17 2003)
  • Sold by: Random House Canada, Incorp.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FBFNW4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,022 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 197 reviews
84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The skinny on when the last veil will fall May 5 2002
By Mike Stone - Published on
Format: Paperback
One of my biggest post-literate mistakes was choosing "Skinny Legs and All" as my first attempt at a Tom Robbins book. It was a big mistake because, for that first pass, I didn't make it past page fifty. And spent the next two years avoiding Tom's oeuvre, for fear of reliving that first awkward experience. Hindsight tells me that those two years could have been spent in an enlightened, blissful state if I'd started my Robbins journey elsewhere. When I tried "Skinny Legs" again, after 'getting' the Robbins of "Another Roadside Attraction" and "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" and "Jitterbug Perfume", I was astounded at the magnitude of its greatness. And more than a bit embarrassed that I passed off its hyper-creativity as just strangeness for strangeness' sake.
The strangeness I speak of, which rears its ugly (nay, sublime) head before page fifty, concerns an Airstream welded to look like a giant roast turkey, and sentient dialogues between a spoon, a dirty sock, and a Can o' Beans (and later, a mystical Conch Shell and a magical Painted Stick; ancient objects with an enormous task ahead of them). Hmm. A first time Tommer can be expected to run screaming from images like that, skeptical that they can be made credible. But the seasoned pro knows that Tom has something exciting up his sleeve. And can't wait to find out what it is.
"Skinny Legs" follows the 'exciting' adventures of Ellen Cherry Charles, erstwhile artist and sometimes waitress, and her newlywed husband Boomer Petway, creator of said turkeymobile. Their plan is to drive from Virginia, which is too conservative to cultivate Ellen's artistic and sexual passions, to New York City. The goal is to find fame and fortune in the art community. Which they do, but not in the expected way.
While in New York, Tom throws in many issues and ideas that are as relevant today as they were in 1990 when the book was published. More so, even. Talk of New York terrorism, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and Jerusalem as a hot button issue, all inform the story in one way or another (as do Tom's staples: art, love, passionate sex, philosophy, history, etc. etc. etc.). This can best be seen in one of Tom's most poignant creations: a restaurant named Isaac and Ishmael's, owned by a Jew and an Arab in an attempt to call attention to the brotherhood needed to end the conflict in the Middle East. "To a bird in the air, it's beanies versus dishcloths," notes the I&I's Arab owner, Roland Abu Hadee, before he summarize the foolishness of the situation. "To a bug on the street, both groups are the same." Tom's handling of the Israel conflict, and the way he weaves it into his story, is masterful. He takes his position on the conflict (through the I&I, which in an attempt at reconciliation is not-so-incidentally named after Sarah's sons: the bastard child who went on to become the father of the Arabs, and the legitimate child who went on to become the father of the Hebrews), allows his characters their passions, and even offers a number of fanciful solutions.
But he's not always fanciful and flippant about the situation. One character notes that as New York and London and Tokyo, etc. are all about money, "Jerusalem is about... something else." It's a complicated city, with a complicated history, embroiled in a conflict that's "an overload of craziness... a seventy-piece orchestra rehearsing a funeral dirge and a wedding march simultaneously in a broom closet."
While that part of the book is concerned with the unknowable, the rest of the book tries to find a solution to such problems. Enter the stories of Jezebel (idolater, hussy, face-painter, former Queen of northern Israel) and Salome (she of the Dance of the Seven Veils). Both figures make metaphorical and nearly literal returns to our modern world in the book. In doing so, they lift "the veils of ignorance, disinformation, and illusion [that] separate us from that which is imperative to our understanding of our evolutionary journey, shield us from the Mystery that is central to being." This is, in just one sentence, Tom Robbins' goal for this sprawling and magical book.
Along the way to achieving this goal here, Tom's flair for humourous language and analogy is at its peak. This, to me, has always been the sugar that allows Tom's sometimes-harsh medicine to go down easily. Here lie some of my favourites:
...Concerning the name of an ancient leader of Babylon: "Nebuchadnezzar is a poem... a swarm of killer bees let loose in the halls of the alphabet."
...Ellen Cherry practicing the menu of the I&I, at which she is the hostess, with Boomer:
"Now what the heck is 'roz bel khalta'?"
"Yiddish for Mrs. Jimmy Carter?"
..."Eviction was staring [Ellen] in the face like a deviate on the subway". (This last one is important to me because not only is it a powerful simile, but it is a powerful *New York* simile; there's nothing more stereotypically New York than deviates on the Subway. Tom, as you can see, is in full control of his gifts here.)
"Pious dogma, if allowed to flourish," says the Conch Shell. "Will always drive magic away." For Tom Robbins, an author who buys magic wholesale and manages to fashion it into something even more tangible and wonderful, this is the cruelest death that can be inflicted on mankind. Rest assured, he's doing everything within his literary powers to make sure that never happens. "Skinny Legs and All" is a perfect symbol for this fight. Now it's your job as a reader, whether a Tom-newbie or someone who's been down his lush paths before, to have patience, keep an open mind, and know that Tom would never steer you wrong. Least not here, in one of his masterpieces.
54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please don't call him wacky (you'd be missing the point) April 9 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Tom Robbins takes creative writing to the spiritual. He is themad shaman of the sentence. If you give a damn about color, love,touching, art, the creative process, if you are aware enough to feel the echoes from a time long past when the earth was sacred, when men knew more about female anatomy than harddrives and batting averages, when stars meant something, if you've ever faced the blank, virgin canvas and found out who you were or weren't, if you've ever felt like an alien on Superbowl Sunday then
'Skinny Legs & All' will profoundly move you. It might even change your life. At very least, Tom Robbins will ruin reading for you -- suddenly everything else seems like soggy iceburg lettuce. 'Skinny Legs & All' is the best novel I've ever read. It costs less than a stupid pizza, do yourself a favor.

ps I also HIGHLY recommend 'Jitterbug Perfume' (I have to say this because it's the most beautiful book I've ever read and I noticed that someone here gave it a negative recommendation and I just can't keep my mouth shut when I hear someone proclaim the earth to be flat)
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fabulous! Sept. 19 2001
By JP - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is the first Tom Robbins novel I've read, and it was an incredible pleasure from cover to cover. Reviewing a Robbins novel is not so easy though. A simple plot summary surely doesn't suffice. Let me start by saying that it's a vastly entertaining book, and really quite profound. Robbins expounds--through his diverse and bizarre characters--on many topics, particularly organized religion and the middle east (inseparable, when you think about it). He's clearly no great fan of organized religion, and treats the middle east with the complexity and nuance it so surely deserves. It's also a very feminist novel (in my opinion), with multiple strong female characters, and a very purposeful attempt to show the patriarchal origins and underpinnings of the three major mono-theistic religions.
Still, the greatest pleasure of this novel is the spectacular wordplay and turns-of-phrase. Robbins prose is wonderfully creative and elegant, and though some readers may find the constant similes and metaphors to be gratuitous, I did not. Every line seems so carefully crafted -- there is not a single throw-away word. On many occasions (too many to count), I found myself saying "I really should write this down." If that happens to me a half dozen times in a book, I would consider it a good read. But 25-30 times?? Remarkable.
I don't want to give the impression that this is a preachy or obtrusively political book -- it isn't. It is laugh-out-loud funny and extremely entertaining. But there certainly are multiple layers, and I think it is bound to connect with a reader on at least one, if not many different levels. Overall, just a fantastic read. I highly recommend it!
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my Favorite June 29 2003
By Katrina L. Dinicola - Published on
Format: Paperback
I am a huge Tom Robbins fan. Accidentally introduced to his works on a plane ride between Seattle and Chicago, I have been hooked on him for over a year. Determined to read the books in some semblence of order, I now find myself on this book, "Skinny Legs and All." It has been, by far, my least favorite book of Mr. Robbins. The thing I love most about his books is the way the story comes out and wraps itself around you with loving arms, pulling you in and not letting you go until the last word. However, with this book, I feel an arm's length away the entire way through. I can't connect to the characters, the humour is only present among the inanimate objects (and even then is pretty stiff), and the story is so saturated with political and religious views and ideals, that it's hard to get into. I feel like I'm being blatantly beaten over the head with a "Tom Robbins' political/religious Stance" manual. I definitely like his more subtle books better. I agree with a few other reviewers who've said this is not the book for readers new to Tom Robbins. See to "Still Life with Woodpecker" or "Jitterbug Perfume" for that. Also, and this may be a bit nit-picky, but one final thing that makes this book hard for me to get through, is the constant references to baba ghannouj being made from chickpeas, when it is in fact made from roasted eggplant. This book should definitely be a part of any Tom Robbins fan's collection, but it is not the one you'll be flipping through on a rainy day, wishing you could escape into the sunny desert oasis of a Camel pack.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooked May 3 2000
By K. Mohnkern - Published on
Format: Paperback
This was my first Tom Robbins book, so at first I found the self-consciously clever metaphors and phrases tiresome, but after 50 pages or so I was hooked, looking forward to the next one. It's rare when a book that has me laughing out loud on the bus will also bring me close to tears and make me want to remorize and recite passages to my wife. By the last page, my only disappointment was the less-than-satisfying endings to some characters' stories. I've since read several of his other books, thinking I was now a serious Tom Robbins fan. I haven't found any of the others to hold onto me as tightly as this one, so I think I'm instead a serious Skinny Legs and All fan.