Another Roadside Attraction

Another Roadside Attraction



The Pequod Review:

Tom Robbins writes novels that blend comedy, mysticism, philosophy, and sexuality; and typically involve off-beat and hippyish characters in pseudo-realistic settings. But more than the plots, the distinctive feature of his books is his prose style — digressive, playful, pop-philosophical, and sometimes overwritten:

Although the surface of our planet is two-thirds water, we call it the Earth. We say we are earthlings, not waterlings. Our blood is closer to seawater than our bones to soil, but that's no matter. The sea is the cradle we all rocked out of, but it's to dust that we go. From the time that water invented us, we began to seek out dirt. The further we separate ourselves from the dirt, the further we separate ourselves from ourselves. Alienation is a disease of the unsoiled.


The clown is a creature of chaos. His appearance is an affront to our sense of dignity, his actions a mockery of our sense of order. The clown (freedom) is always being chased by the policeman (authority). Clowns are funny precisely because their shy hopes lead invariably to brief flings of (exhilarating?) disorder followed by crushing retaliation from the status quo. It delights us to watch a careless clown break taboos; it thrills us vicariously to watch him run wild and free; it reassures us to see him slapped down and order restored. After all, we can condone liberty only up to a point. Consider Jesus as a ragged, nonconforming clown--laughed at, persecuted and despised--playing out the dumb show at his crucifixion against the responsible pretensions of authority.

Tom Robbins’s first novel, Another Roadside Attraction, is one of his better books. Set amidst the 1960s subculture, the novel describes the theft of Jesus's corpse from the catacombs under the Vatican. The plot is one of his best and most intricate, while his writing style is alternately spirited and irritating: 

For those of you who may have come to these pages in the course of a scholastic assignment and are impatient for information to relay to your professor (who, unless he is a total dolt, has it simmering in his brainpan already), the author suggests that you turn immediately to the end of the book and roust out those facts which seem necessary to your cause. Of course, should you do so, you will grow up half-educated and will likely suffer spiritual and sexual deprivations. But it is your decision.