It’s time to try something new.
At the time this site was first imagined, the idea of a Travel Blog sounded so much more appealing than just a blog. Not that the word is inherently very sexy in the first place. (However, it is at least a little more desireable than its full name, weblog… *shudder)
This particular site has been active for about a year now, and I’ll happily consider it one of my more successful ventures. I’m the first to admit that there was a very good chance that I’d assemble the blog posts on Puerto Rico, and only return once a year when WordPress notified me that it was time to cough up some coin for the luxury of a custom domain name.
But, here I sit with 14 published posts and 11 drafts awaiting completion. An average of one post per month is fine with me, even if they do often come in literary spurts. That being said, I often feel that there is much left unsaid, unshared, or undocumented. Despite the fact that I call this a Travel Blog, it seems like a good time to start adding some of life’s other souvenirs.
So. Let us start with a book.
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates
Let us start by saying that I engage in enough works of literature that it should be noted that this is the book that finally pushed me off the cliff of my narrow-sighted Travel Blog.
Let us start by saying that I rarely actually take people up on their encouragement to read a new book. (Especially when it requires an investment of nearly 500 pages, or 16 hours on audiobook)
Let us start by saying that this book isn’t for everyone, but it should be.
Let us continue by wondering why I’m getting redundant 302 words into this blog post…
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates is a book for lovers of books. Solid bricks of words that will stand up on their own when placed perpendicular to the desktop.
Tom Robbins Switters is loquacious in a way that bends the mind just enough to make it smile under the pressure.
On the right side-panel of the verbose and somewhat tautological box of Cheerios, it is written, If you are not satisfied with the quality and/or performance of the Cheerios in this box, send name, address, and reason for dissatisfaction—along with entire boxtop and price paid—to: General Mills, Inc., Box 200-A, Minneapolis, Minn., 55460. Your purchase price will be returned. It isn’t enough that there is a defensive tone to those words, a slant of doubt, an unappetizing broach of the subject of money, but they leave the reader puzzling over exactly what might be meant by the “performance” of the Cheerios. Could the Cheerios be in bad voice? Might not they handle well on curves? Do they ejaculate too quickly? Has age affected their timing or are they merely in a mid-season slump? Afflicted with nervous exhaustion or broken hearts, are the Cheerios smiling bravely, insisting that the show must go on?
The “hero of the story” is a self described errand boy to the CIA named Switters with an appetite for adventure (ie: wa-hoo!), purity (ie: his 16 year old step sister, nuns, etc.), and his self-appointed high rank amongst grammar police. The quotation above is intended to be particularly random, as much of the book flourishes on tangents and webs that weave an incredibly unique story. (“Unique” may not be the right word. Switters would know…)
Here. have another taste.
Tennessee Williams once wrote, ‘We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.’ Yes, but oh! What a view from that upstairs window! What Tennessee failed to mention was that if we look out of that window with an itchy curiosity and a passionate eye; with a generous spirit and a capacity for delight; and yes, the language with which to support and enrich the thing we see, then it DOESN’T MATTER that the house is burning down around us. It doesn’t matter. Let the motherfucker blaze!
Now and again, one could detect in a childless woman of a certain age the various characteristics of all the children she had never issued. Her body was haunted by the ghost of souls who hadn’t lived yet. Premature ghosts. Half-ghosts. X’s without Y’s. Y’s without X’s. They applied at her womb and were denied, but, meant for her and no one else, they wouldn’t go away. Like tiny ectoplasmic gophers, they hunkered in her tear ducts. They shone through her sighs. Often to her chagrin, they would soften the voice she used in the marketplace. When she spilled wine, it was their playful antics that jostled the glass. They called out her name in the bath or when she passed real children in the street. The spirit babies were everywhere her companions, and everywhere they left her lonesome – yet they no more bore her resentment than a seed resents uneaten fruit. Like pet gnats, like phosphorescence, like sighs on a string, they would follow her into eternity.
…it’s hardly headline news that the corporate state and its media are using the latest gadget-com and gimmick-tech to dumb us down as steadily as if they were standing on a stool and pounding our brains with a frozen ham.
Peeple of zee wurl, relax
Okay. Technically that last quote is from a geriatric parrot named Sailor Boy, but you get the point.
Not surprisingly, Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates is a book about travel. I’m fairly certain the entire 500 pages could have taken place in the confines of a Detroit basement and been just as entertaining, but we got lucky. I don’t have to worry about spoiling things much because the book has a tendency of making several large, chronological, leaps before returning to an earlier point in time. Several pages in you’ll already know the three main settings. Seattle, Peru, and the Syrian desert. That’s almost part of the fun with Tom Robbins’ writing style. He’s more than happy to give away just enough of the plot twist early on to plant more than one seed in the back of your mind.
So. What make it so good?
- It is intellectual without feeling condescending. Sure, parts read like an excerpt from a thesaurus, but it is all in good fun. There are oodles of references to other languages, history, theology, and real-world political goings-on, but it never reads like a textbook. The main character feels like an everyday Joe with a an infinite number of tricks up an infinite number of sleeves.
- It is fun. Fun in a way that few authors manage to capture. At one point I described the writing style as “Hunter S. Thompson meets Roald Dahl”. I still feel like that is a pretty good approximation. (All three have been banned to some extent.) However, I’m starting to feel that Tom Robbins is more like what Dahl would have been had he extended his career past his death. (In case you’re not aware, Roald Dahl penned a number of “adult” novels as well. Check out My Uncle Oswald and some of his short story collections!)
- It is unbelievably believable. Or maybe believably unbelievable… Either way, the entire story feels much like a piece of nonfiction where you’re a little leery to look around the next corner because it just might get so ludicrous that it falls apart. It never does.
- It is eloquently obscene in a way that makes your cheeks redden, your pulse quicken, and then tucks you into bed with milk and cookies. This concerned me at first. I’m not particularly fond of any work that delves into the sexual nature of homo sapiens, but everything plays out incredibly neatly in this piece of art. Even the naughty bits. (Okay. I was a little concerned while the phrase, “Please don’t fuck your step sister!” repeated in my mind at 80 miles per hour. I listen to audiobooks while driving…)
On that note… Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates might not be for you if you’re the particularly
sensitiveprude type. This book definitely took me out of my comfort zone, but in such a wildly entertaining way that I want to find every blockbuster movie with a cliché sex scene and rub it’s nose in the pages of this novel.
- It is deep. So deep that it doesn’t always hit you until after it knocks you on your ass. The social and theological commentary is part of that makes this book great. I’m really glad that the phrase, “the meaning of life” never popped up in the text, but it may as well have. It might not be a good idea that we should all aspire to be like Switters, but it couldn’t hurt.
Okay. This isn’t a book report, or even a summary. It is an attempt to get you to indulge yourself with an amazing piece of literature that is more intellectual, adventurous, romantic, and philosophical than anything I’ve ever read. At one point I thought it would make great movie, but it wouldn’t. If Hollywood got their hands on it there would be way too much “boom-boom”, and you’ll just have to read the book to hear Switters’ rant on the popularity of boom-boom movies amongst young males.