Friday, May 1, 2009

Cold Beer on Warm Days

Yesterday was deliciously sunny and warm, and you know what that made me think about: tall cold mugs of beer. Mmmmmm. And that made me think about the new novel by Tom Robbins. Why would that be, you might ask. Because his new book, his first novel since 2003, is called B is for Beer. His editor describes it as a "hallucinogenic hymn to beer, children, and the cosmic mysteries that sustain us all." It's a small tome -- just over 100 pages -- and is subtitled A Children's Book for Grown-ups, A Grown-up Book for Children.

At the book's launch party, Robbins thanked the crowd for coming to "what amounts to just another typical children’s book about beer.” Hmmmm. Can't say that I've run across a lot of those in my book career. “There’s no such thing as a bad beer, but there are bad beer drinkers,” he said. In B Is for Beer, he didn’t just want to explain the history of beer to his audience, he also wanted to explore the mystery and wonder of it, its sociological implications, and the way alcohol can be used to “rearrange the furniture of the brain,” and its ability to occasionally “elevate conversation” despite alcohol’s limitations.

The book offers a Beer Fairy and beautiful language. Robbins writes that Seattle’s drizzle is a “soft rain that could be mistaken for a mean case of witch measles,” and leaves “a damp gray rash on everything, as though the city were a baby that had been left too long in a wet diaper and then rolled in newspaper.” This is what the back cover of the book has to say:

"Once upon a time (right about now) there was a planet (how about this one?) whose inhabitants consumed thirty-six billion gallons of beer each year (it's a fact, you can Google it). Among those affected, each in his or her own way, by all the bubbles, burps, and foam, was a smart, wide-eyed, adventurous kindergartner named Gracie; her distracted mommy; her insensitive dad; her non-conformist uncle; and a magical, butt-kicking intruder from a world within our world. Populated by the aforementioned characters—and as charming as it may be subversive—B Is for Beer involves readers, young and old, in a surprising, far-reaching investigation into the limits of reality, the transformative powers of children, and, of course, the ultimate meaning of a tall, cold brewski."

In an interview several years ago, Robbins told of a review of one of his books in the New York Times in which the writer said something like, "Robbins needs to make up his mind between whether he wants to be funny or serious." And he remembers thinking "I'll make my mind up when God makes up his."

Robbins, who has lived in La Conner, Washington, since 1970, is the author of Another Roadside Attraction, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and Still Life with Woodpecker, among other works of fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait to read this one. He is one of my favorite writers from way back. All we can say is, 'it's about time, Tom'.


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