Hot Dog!

My friend Jaima has been trying to get me read Tom Robbins for a few years. She recommended that I begin with Skinny Legs and All or Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, but I thought Another Roadside Attraction would be a fine follow-up to The Frozen Rabbi. Unable to locate a copy at a local library I took the risk of buying a copy without knowing quite what I was getting into. It was worth it! Jaima, I owe you a hot dog (or a lobster corndog, if you prefer)!

The hot dog really is the perfect symbol for this book. So many disparate bits and pieces, some of which are best left inscrutable, coming together in one casing to form something more, something mystical and corporeal, revolting and satisfying (“squish and bliss”)! I ate three in six days during the course of reading Another Roadside Attraction, which has this to say about them: “A sausage is an image of rest, peace and tranquility in stark contrast to the destruction and chaos of everyday life. Consider the peaceful repose of the sausage compared with the aggressiveness and violence of bacon.”

John Paul Ziller, a self-styled magician, and his self-realized gypsy wife Amanda certainly have peaceful co-existence in mind when they open the Capt. Kendrick Memorial Hot Dog Wildlife Preserve. The wildlife exhibits at this roadside attraction include a couple of docile snakes, a flea circus, and a preserved tsetse fly but exclude Ziller’s companion Mon Cul the baboon, a princely beast purported to be the only living being to know an English word that rhymes with orange. When they aren’t serving up sausages in steamed buns or leading the fleas through a routine Amanda and Ziller (a and z, beginning and end), along with Amanda’s son Thor (so named for his supernatural electrical eyes),  can be found roaming the hillsides gathering the wild mushrooms that sprout unbidden from the sodden Skagit Valley soil.

Also sprouting unbidden into this pastoral existence is Marx Marvelous, the rationalist writer (and recorder of this tale) who cannot reconcile his spiritual nature with his scientific methods. Marvelous compromises his own methods, interacting with the couple he has traveled cross-country to observe. He seeks the foundation of a new religion but encounters only the deceased remnants of a former faith embodied in the Corpse.

The Corpse is not on display at the roadside attraction (unlike the Frozen Rabbi’s brief stint in sideshow biz), but arrives unbidden with their guest Plucky Purcell. Former football star, drug dealer to artists, martial arts instructor to an order of monks and friend to Ziller and Amanda, Purcell absconds with the Corpse and brings it to the preserve. When the tomb is found open and the body missing, His disciples seek Him but do not find Him, for He is risen (in a radical way).

Robbins’ humor is irreverent and his writing inventive. I take pride in drawing unusual connections, such as assigning books a song by U2. “Flower Child” is an easy fit for Amanda, although “Until the End of the World” is a better fit for the book. I thought I had a special ability to make connections, but Robbins comes up with similes that leave me dumbfounded. Of Purcell: “His smile was like a splash of ham gravy on a Statue of Liberty tie.” Of Amanda (the true focal point of the story, its’ teller insists): “She felt like the frosting left on the spoon that iced the Cake of the World.” Of the environment in particular: “The afternoon sky looked like a brain. Moist. Gray. Convoluted. A mad-scientist breeze probed at the brain, causing it to bob and quiver as if it were immersed in a tank of strange liquids. The Skagit Valley was the residue at the bottom of the tank.” I’ve seen the term “mutant metaphors” accurately ascribed to Tom Robbins; I’d say it also applies to hot dogs!

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One Response to “Hot Dog!”

  1. I’m so happy you liked it! It was actually my first Robbins novel as well. I should go back and revisit it now that I have read others.

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