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Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
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Still Life with Woodpecker (1980)

by Tom Robbins, Tom Robbins

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The trouble with many books in the humour category is that they shout at you: "Hey, you, read me, I AM FUNNY!" This is very annoying and exhausting. Same with this one of Tom Robbins, which has the impression of a cartoon without the images. If you are fond of cartoons, it may just be your cup of tea. Mine it ain't. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
Can't even guess how many copies of this book I have bought. ( )
  euroclewis | Jun 8, 2016 |
almost indescribable. there is a romance, but it isn't a romantic story. there is the rise and fall of a monarchy, but it isn't a political story. there is a lot of social commentary, but it isn't an anthropological story.

the author has a fascinating way with words, and i will gladly search out his other works. i picked up quite a few great quotes, the favorite being:
those who shun the whimsy of things will experience rigor mortis before death"" ( )
  Darth-Heather | May 31, 2016 |
The book begins in "the final quarter of the twentieth century," at a year never specified, presumably in the early 1980s. It revolves around a family of deposed European royalty living in a small house in the suburbs outside of Seattle, under the protection of the CIA. They consist of: the father, King Max, a former gambler and poker player whose prosthetic heart valve makes a loud scraping noise when he gets excited; the mother, Queen Tilli, an opera-lover with a strong foreign accent and a fondness for saying "Oh, oh, spaghetti-o"; Gulietta, the non-English-speaking maid (and, as it turns out, Max's half-sister) and the daughter, Leigh-Cheri, a redheaded vegetarian liberal princess and former cheerleader, having been expelled after her second miscarriage, courtesy of the school jock.

Leigh-Cheri proclaims herself celibate, withdraws from public life and cloisters herself in her room, only to emerge to ask her parents for permission to go to the Care Fest, a liberal convention in Hawaii with scientist and politician speakers, including Leigh-Cheri's idol, Ralph Nader. Gulietta is sent to accompany her, and while on the plane, Leigh-Cheri meets Bernard Mickey Wrangle, an outlaw bomber known as the Woodpecker (the common Tom Robbins-fantasy-alter-ego character). Like Leigh-Cheri, he is a redhead, and unlike her, he is on his way to blow up the Care Fest. As it turns out, the Woodpecker has a passion for tequila that inadvertently causes him to bomb a UFO conference instead of his intended target. Gulietta rats him out as the bomber to Leigh-Cheri, who then places him under citizen's arrest. Before she knows it, Leigh-Cheri finds herself at a bar with this crooked-toothed outlaw, drinking tequila and kissing passionately. The two do not agree on their philosophies concerning life: Leigh-Cheri believes it is everyone's job to make the world a better place, Bernard thinks that life is meant to be lived and, on occasion, shaken up.

In between bombings and falling in love, Leigh-Cheri is approached by an unusually beautiful woman who claims she is from the planet of Argon. She informs Leigh-Cheri that redheads are considered evil on her planet and that "Red hair is caused by sugar and lust". This is highly insulting to Leigh-Cheri because she has only recently taken those things out of her life. Leigh-Cheri, Bernard, Gulietta, and a friend flee Lahaina after Bernard frames the Argonian couple for the bombing of the UFO meeting. Out on the sea, an unexplainable light source flies by their boat (the Argonians?) and Gulietta leaves Hawaii having developed a slight cocaine addiction.

While courting the princess in Seattle, Bernard manages to ruin a priceless royal rug, kill Tilli's chihuahua, and get arrested for his past exploits. The princess is overcome with longing for her confined lover; her solution to their separation is to isolate herself in the attic and create the same atmosphere Bernard is forced to live in. In continuous solitude, with nothing but a pack of Camel cigarettes to entertain her, Leigh-Cheri unveils a secret conspiracy involving redheads, ancient pyramids, Thomas Jefferson, the moon, CHOICE, and the planet of Argon. When Bernard hears that people are copying Leigh-Cheri's self-isolation and making it a fad, he sends her a letter telling her that she has made too much of a deal out of the relationship and has also started a trend he does not approve of. Leigh-Cheri leaves her attic, outraged and heart-broken, and becomes engaged to a rich Arab named A'ben Fizel who builds a pyramid for her as an engagement present. Gulietta is made queen by the revolutionaries of her country, and Max and Tilli are given ample living expenses, which Max uses to gamble his life away in Reno.

The day before Leigh-Cheri and A'ben's wedding is scheduled, Leigh-Cheri learns that Bernard was shot in an Algerian jail. Hysterical, she flees to the pyramid and, upon entering it, discovers Bernard, waiting for her, strapped with dynamite as usual.

A'ben is informed of this by a guard, and he locks the two into the pyramid's chambers. A'ben tells the public that Leigh-Cheri was captured by terrorists, has the pyramid painted black, and announces that no one will ever enter it again, effectively burying the two alive.

In the meantime, Bernard and Leigh-Cheri, trapped in the pyramid, are living off of wedding cake and champagne while they discuss the pyramids, redheads, the moon, and Camel cigarettes. When they are almost completely out of supplies, Leigh-Cheri decides to use the dynamite to make an opening while Bernard sleeps, sacrificing her own life to save him. He tries to stop her, but the dynamite goes off anyway. They awake in the hospital where they discover that they are both deaf. Max is so shaken by Leigh-Cheri's capture and reappearance that his heart gives out on him. After the funeral, Leigh-Cheri and Bernard move back to Seattle where they spend the rest of their days pondering inanimate objects.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Ah, to be Robbins -- to throw out these wonderfully unique plots that just take off and become a zany dream! So ridiculous and yet these stories are almost true. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tom Robbinsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Robbins, Tommain authorall editionsconfirmed
Franconeri, FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
LePere, LeslieIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
You don't need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Don't even listen, simply wait.
Don't even wait.
Be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you.
To be unmasked, it has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
—Franz Kafka
Here should be a picture of my favorite apple.
It is also a nude & bottle.
It is also a landscape.
There are no such things as still lifes.
—Erica Jong
Dedication
To the memory of Keith Wyman and Betty Bowen: if there is a place where people go after death, its proprietors have got their hands full with those two To everybody whose letters I haven't answered. And to G.R., special delivery.
First words
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, at a time when Western civilization was declining too rapidly for comfort and yet too slowly to be very exciting, much of the world sat on the edge of an increasingly expensive theater seat, waiting—with various combinations of dread, hope, and ennui—for something momentous to occur.
Quotations
"One must agree that the last quarter of the twentieth century was a severe period for lovers. It was a time when women openly resented men, a time when men felt betrayed by women, a time when romantic relationships took on the character of ice in spring stranding many little children on jagged and inhospitable floes."
"Regardless of what else the press might have contributed to our culture, regardless of whether it is our first defense against totalitarianism or a wimpy force that undermines authentic experiences by categorizing them according to faddish popular interest, the press has give us big fat Sunday papers to ease our weekly mental menstrual bloat."
"If beneath the great issues and all-encompassing questions (as underplayed as they were in the last quarter of the twentieth century) a more intimate struggle rages, a struggle whose real goal was romantic fulfillment, maybe it was courageous and honorable to attempt to transcend that struggle, to insist on something more than that.
Maybe."
"What is more likely is that technology will bypass artists, that a day is coming when our novels will be written by computers, the same devices that will paint our murals and compose our tunes."
"Who does have a love life anymore? These days people have sex lives, not love lives... I don't have a love life because I've never met a man who knew how to have a love life. Maybe I don't know how, either."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Book description
Haiku summary
Red-headed outlaw,
armed with lots of dynamite,
blows stuff up for love.

(Carnophile)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553348973, Paperback)

Still Life with Woodpecker is a sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:24 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A love story that takes place inside a pack of cigarettes reveals the moon's purpose, differentiates between outlaws and criminals, and presents portraits of powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders.

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