I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone who lends me a book must assume I’m a quasi-pretentious elitist. For instance, instead of something akin to Eat, Pray, Love to take with me on vacation, a friend with a sick sense of humor handed me a copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (summed up inexorably as “a morbid longing for the picturesque at all cost”) to read on the beach. In fact, I’m urged towards James Ellroy’s grand conceits over a John Grisham mystery time and time again. I could go on, but no need to bore you. All you need to know is that sometimes I receive pseudo-philosophical bile bound in paperback (back to you Donna), but occasionally I am presented with printed gold.
As is the case with Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume.
First, the base notes of Robbins' Perfume:
A flare of musk from a blood-crusted and chiseled warrior-king emanates as a result from his multiple escapes from regicide (thanks to his concubine-wives, his wit, and ultimately, his greater wisdom). His effluvium later tangos with the pungent aux natural stench of a certain wild Sheep-God, while the patchouli gusto of a beautiful Indian widow, another fugitive of death, augments the woody scents to evoke to the nose the holistic wonders of earthly pleasure- eating, bathing, dancing, frolicking about in the great outdoors, and of course sex. The spicy yet sensual harmony possesses a striking tang of the secret to immortality (what?!?), and finishes with a subtle hint of jasmine.
The heart notes:
Here we get a whiff of a genius Seattle waitress, who smells of salsa suprema (“That’s ketchup and you know it!”) and her bitter frustration regarding her fledgling career as a perfumer. Her essence mixes with the citrus zing of an eccentric Irish philosopher (who claims to have befriended a thousand year-old janitor), as well as the heady essential oils within a sweltering New Orleans perfumerie (which clashes with the clean cologne of a certain Parisian laboratory). These notes crescendo into a noxious longing for the “perfect taco” (how are any of these things related?!), and are finished with even more jasmine.
The head note:
Beets, the most “intense of all vegetables,” fuse the whole whimsical bouquet together. Fibrous and nourishing yet bloody in its intensity, the crimson beet transcends through each character, space, and time within the story; creating a full-bodied fragrance that would put that soapy Chanel No. 5 to shame.
Robbins has penned a substantially dark work of comic philosophy, which flip-flops between taking itself too seriously and finding its own premise ridiculous (depending on the character lens). As a reader, I found this both refreshing and endearing; a beautifully written original, an epic with an exotic cast of characters (so bizarre and unique that they all felt real), a delight to the senses. . . I could go on, but I”ll spare you.
I’ll halt my soapbox here and let you find a copy. Read the book.
And eat your beets.
P.S. I’d like to thank Luke for the read :)
P.P.S. Gregory is disallowed from recommending anything to me anymore