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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on February 5, 2000
I loved this book. I've read all six books that Tom Robbins has published (so far! ) and I have to say, it's the only one that I liked as much the second . . . or third . . . or fourth time through. _Woodpecker_ came close . . . but no. The first time I read it I was confused out of my mind the first time through. It's in second person -- not first, or third, or both like _Roadside_ -- and it takes a while to get the info everyone likes to know about the main character -- name, what she looks like, etc. But the flaws so evident in _Skinny Legs and All_ -- to me anyways -- are absent in this book. An overly broad focus seemed to be his downfall in _SLAA_, and in _HAIFP_, the focus is so tight that . . . well, it's very tight. Let's just hope that the new one is as good (or better?).
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This book is classic Tom Robbins in the sense that almost every page has some hilariously humorous play on words, or unreal observation about real events, including a lot of incisive commentary on the subject of Washington's allegedly wooden teeth. (I kept wondering if he got knot holes instead of cavities, and whether he used Terminix for dental services*)

That said, this is not one of his best books by a long shot. It starts slowly, works up to a purple passion and then lands flat on its squatty Buddha-esque rear end. The tortuous tale twists around a feckless female Filipino stock broker, facing the fall of the fickle stock market over the Good Friday weekend, frantically forming far-fetched formulae to foil her forthcoming firing. Her acquaintances include a traditionally built psychic, whose fall-back occupation is watching home movies of the lonely and attention-deficient, a philanthropic Lutheran real estate broker who desperately wants to marry her, and last of all, a born again Barbary ape with a yen for banana popsicles and larceny.

While living through the worst days of her lives, she meets a tattooed ex-broker recently back from Timbuktu, and tracks him to his den of decadence beneath a bowling alley. Through this earth shaking incident, not all of which could be blamed on the rise and fall of the bowling pins, she has an Alice in Wonderland experience involving a distant planet, a toothy Japanese doctor who is said to have found a cure for cancer, an inscrutable Indian and a whole lot of amphibians.

Highly pseudo-philosophic, with unlikeable characters and flimsy plot, the main thing this has going for it is the dry humor of the word play, and all the rain in Seattle can't wash that away.

Amanda Richards

*Not a Tom Robbins quote, but it might have been if I didn't write it first
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on January 3, 2012
Spoiler alert -- the book's purpose is to help you understand that "...you thoughtlessly presumed that evolution was over with, that it had achieved its goals, then petered out. You, like millions of other arrogant chauvinists, had taken it for granted that the human species was the end product of the evolutionary process, its culminating and crowning glory. How could you have held that notion for an instant?" (Quoted from the book.)

I read this in my mid-20s and it (I mean this sincerely) changed the path of my life forever. This book has become an important aspect of the lens through which I perceive new experiences and make choices.
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on November 29, 2003
I am wrapped in unfathomable disappointment, having just finished Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas. I don't know whether this is simply the worst novel Tom Robbins has written, or whether I grew up while waiting around for him to write another book. Perhaps the disappointment is not so much with Robbins, but with the realization that I might have really remained so naïve into my 20's as to accept these rambling philosophies at face value without seeing through the tired old agenda of attacking everything about the culture that produced me. It's like brutally exposing all of your own family's flaws without regard to the fact that the family across the street is no more hip and enlightened than your own....or worse, because Robbins does seem to acknowledge that other cultures are just as flawed, which leads him to either idolize fictional peoples from bygone eras or sink into full-blown misanthropy.
It is ironic that a Google search for the title of this novel, with its central theme of "don't buy, get high", returns only websites selling the novel. No enlightened debates about the theme, no additional information about the factoids he cites, no search for truth and purpose. Just book sales.
Nonetheless, I'm not an aging hippie so this is not central to my disappointment. I was with him until the last 15 pages, where I found myself saying out loud, "WHAT is she DOING?" Perhaps he thought the twist (or lack thereof) at the end was a brilliant device for subverting the reader's expectations and adding a skin of cynicism to the entire theme, but I felt cheated, made worse by the second person voice which insinuated insult as well. The reader is set up to believe this is a story about redemption. After all, the whole thing takes place during Easter weekend, what could be more obvious? And the "born-again" monkey? Or maybe it's just that Gwen is so immoral and exploitive that the reader can't imagine why she's worth reading about unless we are to witness her transformation. But, the monkey turns out not to be born-again after all, just the same old thief. And Gwen isn't born again either, she too remains the same old thief. And there's that second person again, pointing the finger directly at YOU as though to say, "dear reader, you are the Fool in this deck of cards". I don't know what Seattle is like, but I can't imagine where Robbins would get the idea that most of us are self-centered and materialistic, much less incapable of change. Indeed, it is the very transformations that come with age that lead many of his most loyal readers, and I count myself among them, to become disillusioned with his shallow lecturing and formulaic plots. Would it have been too predictable to have his characters change, become better? Perhaps. But it all seems pointless if they don't. Like a hippy who never grows up.
Still, for all that, I love Robbin's quirkiness, his sense of humor, and his masterful command of language. Only he could delight me with descriptions of Peptol Bismal as the color of "Flamingo diarrhea". There is no other novelist who makes me pause, reread sentences, and spend a moment just reveling in the language.
I also enjoyed the way he managed to articulate for me the real reasons why I'm so annoyed by new age goddess worship (kudos to Q-jo on that one). And just when you think Robbins is shoving stereotypically leftie propaganda down your throat, he comes out of left field with the perspective that to pity and cater to the homeless is to denigrate them further by denying them the power of their own choices. I certainly didn't expect a lecture on personal responsibility, but he did make me think. Too bad this was the only page in the entire novel that did.
I agree with the other reviewers, don't choose this book as your first Tom Robbins novel, and skip it entirely unless you're a huge fan (and even then keep your expectations low). I disagree, however, with reviewers who imply that Tom Robbins is the only alternative to John Grisham or Oprah recommendations; on the contrary, Robbins is no less "pop" as novelists go, and such thinking betrays a serious underestimation of the rich book choices for anyone who cares to look beyond the new releases.
Robbins normally blends the most creative and unlikely characters to form an intriguing story, but in this case what's so weird about a fat psychic? Is there any other kind? A greedy stockbroker? That's cliché, not creative. A presumptuous, pretentious anti-establishment 'shroom eater? I've met him (and her) lots of times, and he's never struck me as particularly insightful. A straight-laced Lutheran real estate agent? Am I supposed to think he's wacky just because he owns a monkey? Please. The characters are no more creative than the tired theme trotted out from past novels. You want quirky? Try "The Baron in the Trees" by Calvino. And I just can't get over my hatred for Gwen, from the shoddy treatment of her father to her exploitation of her devoted boyfriend to endangerment of the poor monkey, all of it growing progressively worse in the last pages and all for no good reason other than to force me to walk in the shoes of someone devoid of any redeeming quality other than her looks and her pitiful need for security after her unstable childhood. But, everyone's got a hard luck story.
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on September 15, 2003
This is the fourth Tom Robbins book I've read, and even though I enjoyed it, _Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas_ is my least favorite so far (the best being _Still LIfe With Woodpecker_). One of the things I adore about Robbins is that it's wonderful fun to discover who his characters are going to be: in _Skinny Legs and All_ an anthropomorphised can of beans, dirty sock, and spoon are featured; in _Frog Pajamas_ we get to experience life with a 300 pound psychic, a former jewel thief monkey, and an unscrupulous, materialistic stockbroker after a market crash.
One of the problems I had with this particular novel involved Gwen, the stockbroker. I just couldn't like her. I realize that her obsession with money and material objects was part of Robbins' point, but I just didn't enjoy reading almost 400 pages about someone I could not respect. I also found that as the book got closer to its conclusion, Robbins became more and more preachy (through the voice of Larry, the other main character). I know that it was necessary at that point for the reader to understand the theme of the novel (it happens with his other books as well), but Larry's explanations are pages long and I found myself skimming them.
As with the other Robbins novels I've read, _Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas_ is extremely interesting and creative; the reader never has any idea what he will come up with next. In this case, the reader learns more about amphibians, Sirius A, B, and C, and rectal cancer than she would ever think possible. I still recommend this book, but if you've never read Tom Robbins before, don't start with this one.
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on October 20, 1999
I received 'Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas' as a birthday present from a Tom Robbins fan. Having never read any of his works previously, and having heard friends extolling his brilliance, I began reading the novel with a great deal of expectation. Robbins places the reader in the role of a stockbroker called Gwen who finds herself in trouble after a market crash exposes her illegal dealings. She is a character that doesn't warrant much empathy as she is materialistic and selfish, and it's almost insulting that Robbins places you in her shoes through the second person. After approximately 50 pages (my cut-off point for any book that hasn't grabbed my attention) I came within a gnat's nose-hair of giving up. It was only with the introduction of the eccentric and somewhat vulgar Larry Diamond that my interest increased. Larry offers Gwen an alternative look at life, away from the capitalist, yuppie-broker lifestyle she is immersed in. Things become slightly wacky when a rampaging born-again monkey and a missing psychic enter the plot. The novel gets progressively better and although entertaining, is not the literary tour-de-force I expected. It appears from the other reviews below that his other novels are far better so I'll certainly give them a try.
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on January 2, 2003
This is a subversive book, as subversive as they get. Tom Robbins managed to put into it all that matters: mushrooms, Tarot, Dogons, dolphins,the Nature of Reality, Sirius B, God, as well as the mysterious amphibian human ancestors, the Nommo which are supposed to be in a telepathic contact with the human race. Written with the metaphorical bravura and wit that have become Robbins' trademarks, the book follows Gwen, a wannabe bookie at a Seattle brokerage house as she grapples with a series of unforeseeable events which include a market crash, a kleptomaniac monkey, a Van Gogh loving Native American, rectal enema and Larry, a recent graduate from the Timbuktu University. Tim is a master of the art of "living on the Pad". While his book is consistently funny and has a couple of excellent sex scenes, the characters, the plot and the style of writing are rather similar to other R. books. The female protagonist is spunky, sexy, naïve and lacking something that only the male protagonist can provide: spiritual guidance. Despite all the joking (which I enjoyed), the undertone of HAFP is essentialy moralistic . Larry Diamond (whom I suspect to be a Robbins Doppelganger of sorts), is especially tedious with his endless sermons and unfunny misogynic quips. Nevertheless, the message when taken out of its pajamas is positive: it is about taking risks, listening to the Great Mystery and en-joying oneself.
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on December 12, 2001
This story is about one disastrous weekend in the life of Gwen, a Filipina stock broker in Seattle. On Friday, the stock market crashes and her career is at stake. Her boyfriend (whom she doesn't like that much) is looking for his pet monkey (doesn't like him either) whom he has bought from a French jewel thief and is afraid will start thieving again. She has a strong attraction to a former stockbroker-turned-world-traveler/philosopher (and she doesn't like him either.) Her 200-pound psychic best friend (you guessed it -- she doesn't like her either!) has disappeared without a trace.
What makes this book entertaining is how Robbins keeps us guessing on whether or not HE likes Gwen. She is complex enough to be likable and heinous at the same time, and you keep reading to see if she will learn a lesson as she strives to solve all of her myriad problems before she has to meet with her boss on Monday. You have no clue what Robbins has in store until the very last paragraph, and even then it's a doozy.
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on July 20, 2003
... I do believe that Tom Robbins' work is like strawberry ice cream; either you like it or you don't. Robbins has once again managed to juxtapose the most eccentric of characters, the strangest of personalities and somehow make them fit together. That's one thing I love about this author. His sense of sarcasm is unparalleled. But it isn't only sarcasm and dry humor for the sake of poking fun at life that makes this book worth reading. Tom Robbins uses these characters and their outrageous situations to teach, editorialize and explore life on all levels in a way that will make you laugh and cry about your own state of existence. The question I ask is "Do I take myself more seriously, or should I take myself less seriously?" This is a question Tom challenges me to look at. Take it with as many grains of salt as you wish, but be prepared to look at the world through the colored lenses of Mr. Robbins mind.
I've had this book in my library since it was first published, and finally decided to read it. When I first purchased it, I read the first two chapters and put it down. It was harder to get into than the others. Although the first one-third has some trouble gaining momentum, stick with it. It gets better.
The only trouble I had with it is that there seems to be too much happening for just a weekend in real time. But then again, if Mr. Robbins can convince me that a bulk of human knowledge was a gift from amphibians from space, I will let that one go.
I've read most of his novels quite some time ago, my favorites being Jitterbug Perfume and Still Life with Woodpecker. I read them at a time in my life when I could have been one of the characters. Now that I've gotten older, I found that his work still intrigues me, and I am going to read some of these books again.
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on July 22, 2001
Fair warnings: this book is not for the faint of heart, the easily disgusted or those who don't appreciate verbal kalidescopes. Written in the second person ("you" instead of "I" or "they"), this book engulfs you, not like a warm blanket, but more like a fog through which you can only see a couple of feet - those feet, however, are astoundingly clear. The novel is a love story, a hate story and a story about the weird ... that goes on when you're not looking. If you don't believe in miracles, monkeys, the Tarot and the incredible ease in which a very large woman can vanish into thin air, go buy some John Grisham instead. If you can approach this work with an open mind, a hazy sense of self and a seriously good nightlight, give it a try. Just because a plot is slightly unbelievable does not mean the book should be discounted - rather, I think it opens the reader up to the possibility of happenings they never imagined. Hey - one day your boyfriend might also ask you to search for his monkey in your overweight, missing neighbor's apartment. Don't forget: he's a sucker for a banana popsicle.
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