The True Significance of Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins
In his review of Tom Robbins' Skinny Legs and All entitled "Through Salome's Veils to Ultimate Cognition", Tom Clark expressed his dichotomy of opinions regarding the author's style and also the author's message. Although I agree with Mr. Clark in several aspects, I believe he overlooked the true significance of Skinny Legs and All.
Clark accurately described Robbins as an extremely clever writer, but unfortunately also one whose uncertainties of tone and stylistic overreaching affect nearly every page. (9)
Robbins's main characters, both animate and supposedly inanimate, journey through this book down a path like no other. The author flashes from one setting of "human" characters to return to the predicament of his animated inanimate characters. This is commonplace. However, when we revisit our primary players, they are usually in an improbable location and situation. The reader is rewarded with an explanation if he or she continues on patiently. It's rather like a "carrot and stick" approach to captivate the reader's interest, although I'm sure that on occasion, both the horse and the reader gave up. The tone of the characters is also difficult to ascertain, but after a while you realize that it is not a maintained feature. For example, one of the human characters, Ellen Cherry Charles, can be on the brink of committing an orgasmic assault on her very willing doorman, Raoul, when a relatively minor distraction obliterates it from her mind. However, her ambiguity of direction and emotion does serve to reveal the character's insecurities and indecisiveness.
In his review, Clark discussed Robbins's use of language as follows:
"His prose, often brilliant, seems bound to draw attention to itself in the most demanding of ways; particularly overloaded with startling or cute analogies, it sometimes slips on its own stretched comparisons and falls on its face." (9)
For the most part, I agree with Mr. Clark; but I am unsure of exactly what "falls on its face" -- the prose in its individual meaning or as a contribution to the progress of the story as a whole. In regard to Robbins's analogies, the word "brilliant" is insufficient to describe his talent. For example, he referred to Ellen Cherry's expressionless face as being "blank as a paraplegic's dance card" (Robbins 244). Ellen Cherry's entrance into the New York art world was thought of as "entering a peacock through its rectum" (177). In pondering the name of Nebuchadnezzar, Robbins wrote, "A swarm of killer bees let loose in the halls of the alphabet" (105). Robbins clearly does not view the world from the perspective of the masses. I imagine that, in formulating his analogies and metaphors, Robbins employed a trampoline suitable for Paul Bunyan and, naturally, blessed with the ability of locomotion to attain atmospheric heights in order...