Among the pile of books I’m using for edification, diversion and solace in these difficult days, I return to Tom Robbins’ Skinny Legs and All.
Published in 1990, the novel provides relevance even now, perhaps because Robbins’ metaphors strike as sharp and sparking as a blacksmith’s hammer against metal on the anvil. Some say he’s just a hippie and dismiss him as not really serious. They are, with respect, wrong.
His themes — sex, religion and politics — are the most important and serious aspects of experience. But his wire-walker way of approaching them, upside down on a unicycle, is a great pleasure, at least to me.
I interviewed and met him in October 2003. He told confreres of the James River Writers that he wanted to write literature in which both the damsel and the dragon get rescued. That takes some doing.
Skinny Legs has thus far resisted film adaptation. There’s complexities, to be sure, that just wouldn’t translate, but certainly characters that are inanimate objects which aren’t really inanimate (nothing is; all things are composed of swirling atoms that stick together and look like socks and cans of pork and beans) could be rendered with CGI or some other sleight of hand.
The other adaptation, Gus Van Sant’s attempt to bring to life Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, even with Uma Thurman and her thumbs, didn’t quite work. Sant also shorted the story of its Richmond roots, and that annoyed me.
As to filming Skinny Legs, my vote is for Michel Gondry, director of the magical Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind, would be my choice. His The Science of Sleep reminds me of a Tom Robbins novel. His trademark is relying not on CGI but mirrors and trick sets; a cinematic fun house. So. If anybody gets the Robbins and Gondry together, say you read it here first.
But I recently came upon some Skinny paragraphs worth repeating here, in our Madoff-in-his-penthouse-economic drain-circling times.
“What is plain is that neither money nor the love of it is the root of all evil. Evil’s roots run deeper than that. Anway, money is not a root. Money is a leaf. Trillions of leaves, actually; dense, bushy, dollar-green, obscuring the stars of reality with their false canopy. Who says that money doesn’t grow on trees?
The introduction of money, with its seductive if largely ambiguous promises, added a fresh measure of zip to the sport of life, but the zip turned to zap when the players, stupefied by ever-shifting intangibles, began to confuse the markers with the game.”
Taking to heart these observations, and living with those words — that takes some brass.