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    Get Your Read On!

    Title: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (365 pages)
    Author: Tom Robbins
    Published: 1976

    Last spring I told you that if you read one book I had reviewed all semester, you should make it Everything is Illuminated; this time around, make it Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, if you’re short on time or one of those people who just doesn’t get around to reading quite as often as you’d like. This novel is fantastic ‘- Robbins is as gifted a writer as I have come across, easily scoring my highest rating in terms of recommendation.

    One of the best things about Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is that it constantly questions its own text. Fairly early on, we get this passage on the nature of fiction:

    A book no more contains reality than a clock contains time. A book may measure so-called reality as a clock may measure so-called time; a book may create an illusion of reality as a clock creates an illusion of time; a book may be real, just as a clock is real (both more real, perhaps, than those ideas to which they allude); but let’s not kid ourselves ‘- all a clock contains is wheels and springs and all a book contains is sentences.

    Any writer able to throw his own work into such a harsh light so readily should be praised for his courage and audacity alone. Robbins does this repeatedly, even when he eventually writes himself into the narrative. His writing is quirky and consistently suspicious of itself, which is entirely endearing to the reader.

    On the surface, the novel seems to be about Sissy Hankshaw Gitche, a girl born with enormous thumbs. Her initial fascination with hitchhiking, and later, the shift of her attention to ‘Bonanza Jellybean’ and her ranch of cowgirls are the bread and butter elements of the plot, but this is hardly a plot-driven novel. This is a book that’s beauty is the way it is written, not its story. Although the plot is allegorical at times, it is basically filler material ‘- a vessel for Robbins to describe various aspects of life.

    Every few chapters (which are all quite short, all 121 of them), Robbins interrupts the flow to provide commentary on one point or another. Many times he even mentions the title of the novel in relation to itself, which is comical if not a paradox that we only let him get away with because we love him already. These interludes not only provide good stopping points, should you be convinced to actually stop reading, but generally make the reader want to continue on to the next chapter immediately. Many times I found myself thinking, ‘Where the hell is he going with this?’ only to be enlightened by the last sentence on the page, and compelled to turn to the next one, posthaste.

    Little jibes like ‘Maybe some brains like the easy life,’ or the numerous appearances of the phrase ‘the international situation, which was desperate as usual,’ allow frequent bouts of laughter (out loud, of course, the best kind) and keep the mood light even though the subject matter can be quite heavy at times. The book touches on religion, the definition of time, feminism and something that I’ll call neo-feminism, and the meaning of life. It is full of wisdom and truth.

    So, like I said, if you only get to read one book that I review this semester, make it Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. It’s only 365 pages, but its fairly dense reading, so take your time with it. You’ll be running to the bookstore to check out Tom Robbins in no time at all once you put it down. I know I will be.

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