Title: Jitterbug Perfume
Author: Tom Robbins
Purchase: Bookshop.org (affiliate link)
The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-board stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
Priscilla lived in a studio apartment. It was called a “studio” apartment because art is supposed to be glamorous and landlords have a vested interest in making us believe that artists prefer to sleep in their workrooms. Real artists almost never live in studio apartments. There isn’t enough space, and the light is all wrong. Clerks live in studio apartments. File clerks, shop clerks, law clerks, community college students, elderly widows, and unmarried waitresses such as Priscilla.
“Those who crafted me, be they gods or demons, crafted this mind that shapes my resistance to their schemes. Surely they were wise enough, at the wheel where I was thrown, to anticipate future resistance in the heart that were abuilding.”
” . . . I am seized with desire to be something more. Something whose echo can drown out the rattle of death.”
“My life is not merely a public phenomenon, it is a solitary adventure as well.”
older quotes from a previous read through:
Numerous times he had risked his life in combat, exhilarant the cry of his charge. And why not, what was there in death to fear? Death was this world’s tribute and the other world’s bequest. TO shun it was to cheat both sides.
“I cannot tolerate the passive obliteration of all that I am to myself. My deeds have not been so small that they will never be recalled around the fires, yet that fails to satisfy my longing. My life is not merely a public phenomenon, it is a solitary adventure as well.”
Birth and death were easy. It was life that was hard.
I may be mad, he thought, but I prefer the shit of this world to whatever sweet ambrosias the next might offer.
A life in progress. A thing to behold.
The party in Alobar’s head, which agitation and anxiety were throwing, now was crashed by a notion: existence can be rearranged.
“Man is slowly turning away from the plants and animals,” he said. “Slowly he is breaking his bond with them. Someday he will have to reestablish contact if the universe is to survive. For now, however, it is probably best that he set out on his own in his new direction.”
“A salamander can be only a salamander, an elk an elk, and a bush a bush. True, a bush is complete in its bushness, yet its limits, while not nearly so severe as some foolish men would believe, are fairly obvious. The peasants of Aelfric are like bushes, like salamanders. They were born one thing and will die one thing. But you … you have already been a warrior, a king, and a serf, and from the looks of it, you aren’t through yet. Thus, you have learned the secret of the new direction. That is: a man can be many things. Maybe anything.”
“In the past, there was little separation between the lives of plants and animals and the lives of men. Nowadays, there are men who practice separation, not only from the creatures but from other men. The Romans with their Christianity have promoted the idea of the human individual. But you are neither Roman nor Christian, and you are no less smitten, so perhaps the spirit is in the air. The Romans encourage individualism, but they maintain rigid controls. Sooner or later, men will come along whose belief in the supremacy of the exceptional, extraordinary, isolated individual will cause them to declare themselves exempt from controls. In their uniqueness, they will not hesitate to defy accepted standards. Oh, these men will give Rome—and the Romes that shall follow Rome—a very large headache. You, Alobar, I suspect, are among the first of such men.”
“I can tell that my words both delight and excite you.”
“Most of the peasants are content to die. For them, death means the cessation of toil. At last they can drop their soiled and battered bodies and enter the dimension of pure spirit. Plants and animals are even more comfortable with death. It is the natural end. But man by his nature is an unnatural animal. If any creature stands a chance of defeating death, it is man.”
“I encourage you to ride this strange wind that is blowing through youl; to ride it to wherever it will carry you.”
“But which way shall I go?”
“That is between you and the wind. You seem to be searching for a kind of immortatlity. With that I cannot help you. In the realms that I inhabit, death is a companion. One does not quarrel with one’s friend. If you desire to meet masters with power over death, I suggest you travel to the distant east.”
“The foe is not merely Lord Aelfric but the whole of the empire. It is too large, too entrenched, has too much momentum. The world is changing, Alobar.” He gestured at the burning mask. “Don’t waste your life trying to hold back the tides of history. History begot Rome, and history someday will bury it. In the meantime, you’ve other fish to fry. Have you forgotten? Are you to be an individual, a trespasser in territory none else has had the wit or nerve to explore, or just another troublesome mosquito to be swatted by the authorities? You’re no longer king or warrior, remember, but something new. It will do your clansmen no good for you to be slain alongside them, but who can guess what benefits may result from a new life wholly led?”
“The world is round,” he sang in tune with his footfalls. Existence can be rearranged. Man can be many things. I am special and free. And the world is round round round.”
The warm sunlight gave him a lazy, comfortable, lie-around-all-morning-and-scratch-your-armpits feeling.