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Villa Incognito Hardcover – Apr 29 2003

3.3 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (April 29 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553803328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553803327
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #764,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Robbins opens with a folkloric tale, set in Japan, of a tanuki--a raccoonlike wild dog with enormous testicles and a thirst for sake--who marries a woman and sires a daughter before angry gods break up the union. Jumping to the present, the arrest of a drug-smuggling priest in Guam--actually an MIA American who disappeared on a bombing run over Vietnam--threatens to blow the cover of his flight crew, who chose to remain incognito in Laos after the war had ended. The two stories are linked by a circus performer who may be the descendant of the original interspecies romance. While the flyers are featured players, the supporting cast includes an earthy military intelligence officer, a cold-blooded CIA spook, and a woman with a sexual attraction to clowns. The largest theme centers on the nature of identity, but there's a lot swirling around the kitchen sink, including a fleeting incorporation of the events of 9/11. It's a fun read, although the things about Robbins that his fans love--clever wordplay, nudging asides, and political and philosophical digressions--are the same things that infuriate the nonbelievers, and for them, this short work may seem slow. He remains something of a poor man's Vonnegut, lacking the careful measure necessary to bake his notions into a cake that won't fall. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Tom Robbins is a great American treasure. His novels have entertained (and confounded) his ardent fan base for nearly 30 years, and his style of writing is as original as it gets.
"Villa Incognito", his 8th (and, along with the classic "Still Life", one of his shortest) novels opens in typical Robbins fashion - parallel stories seperated by generations, farcical characters and an alluring female whom you somehow know is going to tie the entire story together. The action in "VI" is primarily set in Asia (which gives Robbins a chance to focus on herion as the drug of reference in this novel), where 3 Vietnam (thought to be) MIA's have established their own Walden. Meanwhile, the possible offspring of a Tanuki (don't ask, just trust me that only Robbins could make such a mythical character work SO WELL) and her circus comrades worms her way into the story, creating the mischief that Robbins works so well with his female creations (think Amanda from "Another Roadside Attraction", or the exotic dancer from "Skinny Legs and All" ).
As always, Robbins words simply sparkle. His ability to fashion similes remains unchallenged in modern writing. And the "modern time" sections of the story allow Tom (and his fans) the pleasure of Bush-bashing, 9/11 ruminating, and general "religion-government-organized society is failing us" rambling.
Unfortunately, the story runs into serious trouble after about 150 pages. You see where he wants to go, but lately Robbins has had a bad habit of letting his strong talents get in the way of a solid finish. It's not as bad as "Fierce Invalids" (which crumbled under its own weight), but then again, at only 230 or so pages, there isn't as much room to fail here.
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By A Customer on July 11 2004
Format: Hardcover
Well, I'd just read "Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates" after many years spent with no Tom Robbins books at all. I suppose I had basicallly forgotten about the man, although when I consider it now "Still Life" and "Skinny Legs & All" were mightily enjoyable reads. Anyway, I moved to Seattle and that, for obvious reasons, fueled a reinterest/rediscovery of Robbins. "Fierce Invalids" is certainly one of the best books I've read this year. On the other hand, soon after (perhaps too soon after) "Invalids", my curiousity piqued, I purchased "Villa Incognito". Yesterday, I finished the book. Today, I feel compelled to review it. I did like reading of the tanukis, and the first half or so of the novel was quite engaging. There were two main problems, I felt. A tiny smattering of the characters held some level of interest for me (namely, Madame Ko), but, all in all, I found the book to lack character development or even character definition. The other problem was the ending, which happened about 300 pages immature. I have a theory about this. It seems that Robbins was in the process of writing "Villa Incognito" when the 9/11 attacks happened. I think this affected his writing, because on September 11th (in the book) everything basically falls apart. We lose the plot, and the characters get lost too. Some die, some run away, but very little is actually brought to a point of closure. So I believe that on 9/11 he simply gave up on this book. That he just needed to wrap it up and go on to something else, a post-9/11 novel, at "Villa Incognito"'s (and the reader's) expense. Unfortunate timing, as well, because I do think the novel had great potential. And so I say: Rather Disappointing.
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Format: Paperback
Modern readers are not used to intrusive narrators, a device that hearkens back to the earliest forms of the novel--Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy, for example. I think that's one hurdle for many readers of Villa Incognito. Another hurdle, for me, was the slow start--the Tanuki/tanuki prologue was way too much foregrounding. Satire can't afford to take that much time to develop. Once Robbins moves into the MIA/Madame Ko story, the book begins to move. Another weakness, I think, is that the characters are not as complete as in other Robbins works. I think this is because almost everyone of them is just another voice for the already intrusive narrator. I would have preferred more plot in which his characters could have devloped on their own, and less intrusive narrator. Particularly because there really doesn't seem to be the need for him, it's not as if Robbins uses his omniscience for time-shifting--the novel is pretty linear. Notwithstanding these considerable flaws, Robbins is still a master of the humorous simile and the absurd situation. He uses coincidence with the aplomb of Charles Dickens and is still capable of sharp questions and observations that puncture convention and conformity.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read every Tom Robbins book (some multiple times), and I was thrilled to see this book released so quickly after "Fierce Invalids", but unfortunatley, I was kind of disappointed.
The first 100 pages or so, are just great - but the second half of the book kind of lays an egg in my opinion. I believe the reason this happens is because when one of the major characters - Mars Albert Stubblefied - is introduced, my energy and enthusiasm left this story. This character is just not up to par with the many great characters of wisdom and charm as in his other books, and I feel the overall story suffers a bit for this reason. He is just not a very likeable character and is portrayed to be a smart/ground breaking thinker, but most of his views make little sense, and have even less relevance to the world - even in their defiance of normal society - and this is very 'odd' for Robbins, as most of his stories thrive off of argumentive energy - that is difficult to debate. Stubblefied's theories didn't even lead me to attentive thought to be honest - which is always my favorite part of Robbins' work.
That being said, it is still worth the read, because one always learns great things when reading Robbins, and the worlds that he creates conjure journeys that all people should take once in a while in their life to escape this world for a brief moment. I still consider him the best writer of our time.
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