If you’re looking for a fast-paced read that makes you contemplate the larger questions of life and simultaneously keeps you wondering what will happen next, this is the book for you. Still Life with Woodpecker is the story of a royal family in exile, a princess who can’t decide whether to devote her energies to the betterment of the world or to her romantic interests, and an accomplished bomber with serious principles. When the princess meets the outlaw, it’s as if the universe explodes, setting in motion a chain of events that has sheiks, revolutionaries and the CIA scrambling to make sense of it all. Written in a truly unique style where the story is constantly interspersed with lessons on the functions of an outlaw, treatises on the unique properties of redheads, and interludes detailing the author’s experiences with his fancy new typewriter as he tells this tale, the book takes the reader on a wild ride that is guaranteed to be unforgettable.
Tom Robbins’ prose is strange and beautiful; a pleasure to read. The way he strings words together makes me feel able to taste them in my mouth: sometimes metallic, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter, sometimes tangy. The level of skill involved in writing this way, with the unusual style and the interludes about the typewriter, is immense and Robbins is masterful in the way he wields this skill. From the very first page, I was hooked. I had to read more of this weird, rambling writing that discussed way too many subjects in one go and yet somehow managed never to get boring despite the intimidatingly long passages on pyramids and outlaws and god knows what else.
As for the story itself, it may be a love story, but it’s not just that. It may be a theory of the power of redheads, but it’s much more than that. It may even be an ode to Camel cigarettes, or, at any rate, the packaging they come in, but it means so much more when you put all these discrete parts together. It’s a story, a living, breathing, coiled-up python of a story that will strike you with its beauty and magnificence as it crushes and devours you. Stretched between Seattle, Hawaii and the Middle East, this, if it was not clear to you already, is no ordinary novel. It can teach you the purpose of the moon and the secrets of pyramids. It will leave you with an appreciation of true love like you’ve never had before. And it will provide you with some of the most beautiful quotes you will ever read.
I received this book as a present from a writing workshop batchmate who may not have gifted it to anyone had she known of the number of times the book mentions sex and masturbation, but I am so glad she did, because I may never have read it otherwise. This is a book that can give you shivers each time you think of it and can change the way you view the world. Read it. You won’t regret it.