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Borders interviews Tom Robbins

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Borders interviews Tom Robbins

(…a particularly apt, knowledgeable & inspiring excerpt here-
read to the end for a short meditation on ‘the soundtrack-to-one’s own-written-word’– d=(8{> )
…There’s an obscure, brief, ambiguous verse in the Bible that some people interpret as predicting that when a pure red heifer is born in Israel, it will signal the return or the debut (depending upon which mythic system one buys into) of the Messiah. So, a group of fundamentalist Christian farmers in Mississippi are raising red cattle and flying them to Israel, where they’re sold at cost to ultra-orthodox Jews who hope to produce, through selective breeding, a red calf completely free of markings or discoloration. The objective of both parties, of course, is to force the Messiah’s hand.
Now, this is the kind of stuff that’s happening in our “real world,” boys and girls, and it’s happening all the time! How then can anyone who pays attention to their next-door neighbors, let alone network news, regard my fiction as “outlandish”? I consider myself pretty much a realist. The actual fantasy writers– not that there’s anything wrong with fantasy– are the would-be realists who, focusing exclusively on lawyers, childhood trauma, or mom’s apple pie, write as if enigmatic wackiness wasn’t raging all around us.
The tanuki, an Asian species of dog that closely resembles the raccoon, plays a large part in your story. Renowned in Asian myth for a love of snack, sake, and general freewheeling, is the tanuki there, on both an entertaining and more profound level, for fun?
TR: It’s necessary to distinguish between a tanuki, the animal, and Tanuki, the character from Japanese folklore. The two bear the same relationship to one another as a raven and Raven, or a coyote and Coyote in Native American mythology; a raven is merely a commonplace bird, but Raven is a trickster figure, an entity who’s decidedly supernatural although not quite a god.
Typically, tricksters are disruptive mischief-makers; they’re liars and thieves who delight in playing pranks on overly serious human beings, but in the end, provide the clueless humans with what they need most to prosper and survive. In Japanese mythology, the principal trickster figure is Kitsune the fox, a wily rascal who serves nevertheless as a vital emissary between mankind and the gods. Having no such benevolent function, what foggy little Tanuki shares with his more evolved trickster counterparts is an enormous appetite for food, strong drink, sex, music, and dance. In fact, Tanuki is all appetite, he’s an ultra-sensual embodiment of the life force in its purest, most raw and innocent form. He’s a figure of fun and for fun, including the kind of fun the gods must have had when they danced the universe into existence. So, yes, in its own way, his role is profound.

This book is punctuated throughout by the lyrics of a song written by one of the characters. If there were a soundtrack, I’d guess this would be the main theme. As music is discussed elsewhere, as well, what other songs or pieces might find their way onto such an album?
TR: Great question. Let’s see� The theme songs of Still Life with Woodpecker would surely be Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee” and the Turtles’ “Happy Together,” and a soundtrack to Jitterbug Perfume would be dominated by New Orleans jazz and that eerily beautiful, ancient-sounding music recorded by the Bulgarian Women’s Chorus. But Villa Incognito, hmm� I suppose Leonard Cohen would be well represented, along with a lot of Zen drumming, Erik Satie circus music, a dash of “One Night in Bangkok,” a jigger of the title song from the 1963 movie Charade, plus a general sprinkling of Elvis Costello.

Written by morituri

December 22nd, 2005 at 12:40 pm

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