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A couple of decades ago I was the afternoon guy at a radio station in Medford, Oregon (KMED). I was friends with one of the salesman (I don't recall his name). One bright and sunny afternoon he invited me to his home to meet his wife and kids. We had a lovely time.

Somehow the subject of writing came up. He was very serious about it. I remember we spent a great deal of time talking about it that afternoon. The he started telling me about the greatest writer of all time - Tom Robbins! Then he went on to tell be about the greatest book of all time - "Even Cowgirls Get the Bluies."

I told him I'd never heard of Tom Robbins or his book, but I promised to find out more about him. Then he insisted that I take his personal copy and start reading it immediatly. "But," he said, "you've got to promise to return the book when your're done."

Of course, I agreed.

Well, you know what happened: I only read a couple pages (I hated the book!) and I never returned it. I don't remember exactly, but either I got fired or he got fired, and I never hear from him again.

(Fast forward to earlier this week:)

I'm driving around town listening to a talk radio show about medical marijuanna on KPFA. During the show they played a public service announcemnet by Tom Robbins, promoting the fact that his mother had been denied medical marijuanna. He blamed them for his mother's eventual blindness.

Next thing you know, I'm in a book store looking for anything by Tom Robbins. I decided to get "Wild Ducks Flying Backward: the short writing." I Love It!

His writing is like...amazing. And he's very very funny. I mean laugh out loud funny. It's interesting how a just a couple of decades can change one's perspective, isn't it?

The book is 255 pages. It's divided into chapters featuring Travel Articles (Canyon of the Vaginas, The Eight-Story Kiss), Triutes (The Doors, Leonard Cohen), Stories, Poems, & Lyrics (Dream of the Language Wheel, The Origin of Cigars), Musing & Critiques (Till Lunch Do Us Part, Lost in Translation) and Responses (What is the Meaning of Life?).

Interestingly, as funny as Robbins can be, he can also be extremly profound.


Robbins' astonishing discription of Leonard Cohen's voice -

"It is a voice raked by the claws of Cupid, a voice rubbed raw by the philosoper's stone. A voice marinated in kirschwasser, sulfur, deer musk, and snow; bandaged with sackcloth from a ruined monastery; warmed by the embers left down near the river after the gypsies have gone.

"It is a penitent's voice, a rabbinical voice, a crust of unleavened vocal toast - spread with smoke and subversive wit. He has a voice like a carpet in an old hotel, like a bad itch on the hunchback of love. It is meant for pronouncing the names of women - and cataloging their sometimes hazardous charms. Nobody can say the word 'naked' as nakedly as Cohen. He makes us see the markings where the pantyhouse have been."

You get the picture...but beware - judge for yourself. I've seen several negative reviews about this book. But, I love it! Okay?

I need to careful: I feel like loaning you my copy - you would return it, wouldn't you?

11 out of 10

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The following comments are for "Wild Ducks Flying Backward."
by johnjohndoe

Birds In Reverse Gear
Well-written review. Short, concise and informative. Good choice of an excerpt to show his descriptive skills.

I hadn't heard of this particular book, so thanks much. I think Robbins initially became popular through word of mouth, just like the salesman put you onto him. My first experience was in the 70's when someone forced "Another Roadside Attraction" into my hands and almost demanded that I read it. I did, and it's still my favorite Robbins' book, with its incredible and unique plot. I've enjoyed several others but I find that some of his books are uneven, although still enjoyable to read. Thanks for the review and pointing out this book.

( Posted by: gomarsoap [Member] On: August 29, 2006 )

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