FI Question #12 - I don't even know how to title this one

by Tom Robbins

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Larkwoodgirl
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Unread postby Larkwoodgirl » Fri Jan 14, 2005 4:51 pm

This posted twice, sorry!
""We shall never cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." T.S. Eliot

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Unread postby suec » Fri Jan 14, 2005 7:29 pm

I was less concerned about his interest in Suzy than I should have been, I guess. I kind of played it down in my own mind a bit because I thought of it as Robbins trying to manipulate us as readers, suggesting that you can have it all and exploring the theme of being open to different ways of looking at things, by confronting us with such a taboo. However, a man of his age lusting so much and behaving that way with Suzy, is still unacceptable. So, I'll stick with that taboo, thanks.

Another thing for me is that I saw it as a bit of wish-fulfilment for TR. Well, a lot, actually. Not the interest in a young girl as such, but the fact that the male protagonist can attract females at such extremes. I mean, he gets it on with 2 nuns, for Pete's sake! So, the underlying thing seems to be that he can have whatever forbidden or supposedly unavailable female he likes. I might add here that in Villa Incognito, there is a reference to him which suggests that he continues to have exactly what he wants on the female front. Well, I have lost count of the number of times I have encountered this in books by men, where the protagonist really does stretch the bounds of credulity with his successes with women. I agree with Larkwoodgirl's point about male conceit too and I think this is representative of some men.

What was the question again? Erm. The trouble is that the passage is in such overblown prose (at least, for me). I think that whatever age it happens, it is an important rite of passage. For some, it is connected with shame and for others not at all. But I do think many young girls are far more knowing than Switters seems to believe. I'm not comfortable with generalisations about older women either. I am no more disappointed with men now than I was as a teenager. The excitement of attraction or being smitten can happen at any age as all of us here can confirm.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:01 pm

I have not read any of Robbins other books. I have heard there are some odd sexual proclivities with some of his other characters though. :-? For those of you that have read his other books, do they have a chauvinistic bent as well?
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Unread postby abigail » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:40 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I have not read any of Robbins other books. I have heard there are some odd sexual proclivities with some of his other characters though. :-? For those of you that have read his other books, do they have a chauvinistic bent as well?

I have read all but one of them, DITHOT, and there are elements in some of his other books that could be construed as chauvinistic. But here’s the thing, I don’t think Robbins is chauvinistic; on the contrary, I think he finds women superior, in fact. And I suspect he creates story lines like this one to illustrate this fact. I could be completely wrong here, I’m just thinking out loud.
His male characters, while usually loveable, are not usually as strong as his female characters. I think he exposes Switter’s odd penchant for young girls for a couple reasons: to create a rich character (most importantly), to illustrate a certain weakness in men, and to assert some power for his female characters. We discussed in an earlier thread the absence of feminine power in the world, Robbins seems to hint that ultimately women have enough power over men to make them act like fools.
Perhaps I’m only rationalizing because I adore his work so much, but I’ve always had the impression that Robbins is not condoning or promoting this deviance, but is using it to illustrate a greater point.
Wow, I love this discussion! What a pleasure it is to discuss interesting topics with such bright, insightful people. :goodvibes:

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Unread postby deppdreamer » Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:15 pm

Hello. I am new to the Zone, but since I read Fierce Invalids a while ago, thought I would respond to this, if you don't mind.

I cannot say that I was offended by Switter's lusting after Suzy. In the end, he did not act on his desires. I do think that most sexually healthy males of any age appreciate the innocence and inexperience of young girls, whether or not they admit this to themselves. (And, as someone else noted, she was a teen, not a child. My own grandmother was married at 15 and had her first child at 16. And while my grandfather was only a few years older than she was, it certainly was common practice for teenage girls to be married to to older, established men.)

It is not now considered socially acceptable and so many would deny these feelings. I think that many men like the idea of being the first for a girl/woman. That they are the "maestro," so to speak. They are going to introduce her to "womanhood."

As for older, more experienced women, I would say that it takes a secure man to deal with a woman who knows what she wants and is not intimidated by or submissive to the man. Often, men do like to feel that they are the one "in charge" and perhaps being with a younger woman can help them in this illusion.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Jan 15, 2005 1:47 am

abigail wrote: His male characters, while usually loveable, are not usually as strong as his female characters. I think he exposes Switter’s odd penchant for young girls for a couple reasons: to create a rich character (most importantly), to illustrate a certain weakness in men, and to assert some power for his female characters. We discussed in an earlier thread the absence of feminine power in the world, Robbins seems to hint that ultimately women have enough power over men to make them act like fools.
Perhaps I’m only rationalizing because I adore his work so much, but I’ve always had the impression that Robbins is not condoning or promoting this deviance, but is using it to illustrate a greater point.
Wow, I love this discussion! What a pleasure it is to discuss interesting topics with such bright, insightful people.


abigail that is a very intriguing point of view, the idea that Robbins is creating weakness in his male characters in order to give his female characters more power. Domino certainly holds her own with Switters on more than one occasion and I think Maestra is certainly a strong female character. As I have read more and learned more about Tom Robbins I have had a hard time believing that he would condone some of the things he writes about. I hope we are not rationalizing here too! I am always amazed at the ideas that everyone brings to the board here at ONBC! Bright and insightful to be sure! :cool:

deppdreamer wrote: Hello. I am new to the Zone, but since I read Fierce Invalids a while ago, thought I would respond to this, if you don't mind.

I cannot say that I was offended by Switter's lusting after Suzy. In the end, he did not act on his desires. I do think that most sexually healthy males of any age appreciate the innocence and inexperience of young girls, whether or not they admit this to themselves. (And, as someone else noted, she was a teen, not a child. My own grandmother was married at 15 and had her first child at 16. And while my grandfather was only a few years older than she was, it certainly was common practice for teenage girls to be married to to older, established men.)

It is not now considered socially acceptable and so many would deny these feelings. I think that many men like the idea of being the first for a girl/woman. That they are the "maestro," so to speak. They are going to introduce her to "womanhood."

As for older, more experienced women, I would say that it takes a secure man to deal with a woman who knows what she wants and is not intimidated by or submissive to the man. Often, men do like to feel that they are the one "in charge" and perhaps being with a younger woman can help them in this illusion.



Welcome deppdreamer! :wave: We are really glad you found us and decided to participate! :cool:

The Switters/Suzy connection did make me wonder where the book was headed. I agree that our perceptions of when a woman is considered to be sexually mature have changed. My grandmother was only 18 when she was married and had the first of her 10 children a year later. Your point of men wanting to be the "maestro" and be the one in charge is well taken. I think with them it becomes an ego thing. Thank goodness for our secure men that can deal with us and our Syrup of Wahoo!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby suec » Sat Jan 15, 2005 8:39 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I have not read any of Robbins other books. I have heard there are some odd sexual proclivities with some of his other characters though. :-? For those of you that have read his other books, do they have a chauvinistic bent as well?



I can't say that I have spotted a chauvinistic bent, really. The way it seems to me in his books that sexual attraction to a woman is one thing, and the male may be attracted to a wide range, including the younger ones, but they are still at least the equal of the male intellectually and spiritually - and sexually, for that matter. His grandmother is called Maestra after all and Domino is no pushover.

I've written something about 2 other books here. I hope they are not spoilers; I've tried not to give the game away. But there is part of a plot summary, albeit a minor part.

I've only read 2 other books but a similar pattern emerges. In Villa Incognito, the male maestro character watches a child growing up (Lisa) and becomes attracted to her. The relationship is consumated when she is about 16, I think, and it is initiated by her. She is a capable, enigmatic woman, with considerable "mystery of being" and a great deal of confidence, sexually and generally. At one point, she is in a relationship with the maestro and his friend (all in the open) and eventually, he lets her go, regretfully, to let the other relationship develop. However, she is a woman with her own destiny and it doesn't appear to include either of them.

In Jitterbug Perfume, the male meets a child about the age of 8 (Kudra) and is briefly attracted, to his shame. They go their separate ways, meeting as adults and equals. We are told that she takes to the marriage bed (with another man) like a duck to water. This is true for the women in both books, actually. So, the idea of teaching the girls seems to be challenged. I think, if memory serves, that Robbins says as much in VI. The male, Alobar, and Kudra are toegther for a very long time - centuries - and she outstrips him in the end, in being more adventurous and courageous than he is in her outlook on life and death. She also moves on, in a way.

I don't think that wanting to attract a wide range of people sexually conflicts with respect for them in other ways. I read something Marlon Brando said about wanting the challenge with women. The more apparently unavailable, the better, and that sex with a nun would be the ideal. But then again, he said a lot of things ... Maybe there is a conflict, to change my mind yet again. Maybe TR is acknowledging sexual priorities and intellectual values may not be the same thing. Alobar can be aroused by an 8-year-old and still be ashamed of that. It's all part of the same person.

I think Robbins is exploring the yin and the yang: male and female, light and dark, rational and irrational. Complementary necessary elements to make up the whole.

Oh yes, and there are some odd sexual proclivities. Background reading on Rochester has certainly been useful in preparing me to be, er, open-minded. :-O
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Unread postby Liz » Sat Jan 15, 2005 12:05 pm

deppdreamer wrote:Hello. I am new to the Zone, but since I read Fierce Invalids a while ago, thought I would respond to this, if you don't mind.

I cannot say that I was offended by Switter's lusting after Suzy. In the end, he did not act on his desires. I do think that most sexually healthy males of any age appreciate the innocence and inexperience of young girls, whether or not they admit this to themselves. (And, as someone else noted, she was a teen, not a child. My own grandmother was married at 15 and had her first child at 16. And while my grandfather was only a few years older than she was, it certainly was common practice for teenage girls to be married to to older, established men.)

It is not now considered socially acceptable and so many would deny these feelings. I think that many men like the idea of being the first for a girl/woman. That they are the "maestro," so to speak. They are going to introduce her to "womanhood."

As for older, more experienced women, I would say that it takes a secure man to deal with a woman who knows what she wants and is not intimidated by or submissive to the man. Often, men do like to feel that they are the one "in charge" and perhaps being with a younger woman can help them in this illusion.


Good Morning, Deepdreamer. :wave: Glad to have you on board. I agree that it has become socially unacceptable for an adult man to be attracted to a teen, and even more so to act on it. I think we've become somewhat hypersensitive about it. And I'm not saying I condone it per se. I can just understand it.

And as DITHOT pointed out, I'm glad we have men who can deal with our Syrup of Wahoo.
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Unread postby nebraska » Sun Jan 16, 2005 10:32 am

As always, good discussion and interesting ideas here.

Gosh, I remember my "first time" as well, and the forbidden-ness, the "shame", so to speak, was a huge part of the delight! :blush:

I find myself at that point where I feel somewhat "peaked" but my situation has not kept pace with me....... Thank goodness my doc reduced my premarin dose recently :lol:

I just wanted to add my thoughts about Suzy. I was not as offended as I should have been,either. I never felt that Switters' attraction to Suzy was purely sexual, I found him to be appreciating her as an entire person, mind and personality, the whole thing. Even as he desired her, I think he still had brotherly feelings for her as well. And his experience in his world travels gave him a different perspective from what most of us would have in our thought patterns. Furthermore, I think he had some mixed feelings about his desire for her, decent enough to feel some shame or at least some uneasiness.

I really should not have liked Switters but I couldn't help myself. Reminds me a bit of Sheldon Jeffrey Sands who was supposed to be an evil character and stole the whole movie, creating many quick-beating hearts. (Right, DITHOT?)

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Unread postby Liz » Sun Jan 16, 2005 11:33 am

nebraska wrote:I really should not have liked Switters but I couldn't help myself. Reminds me a bit of Sheldon Jeffrey Sands who was supposed to be an evil character and stole the whole movie, creating many quick-beating hearts. (Right, DITHOT?)


This calls for a good morning pic to wake everyone up. *THUD WARNING!*

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v235/DITHOT/JD%20Pics/CastingQuestion.jpg
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Jan 16, 2005 11:35 am

I have been going back and forth with this question since yesterday. It's kind of like being a little bit pregnant :-? Switters was attracted to Suzy and she certainly led him on. He cared enough about her and the customs of society to at least feel guilty about his attraction to her. On the other hand, when he was in a culture like Thailand, where that sort of behavior is more common, he did give in to his desires. So was he or wasn't he? I'm still not sure. :eyebrow:

nebraska wrote: I really should not have liked Switters but I couldn't help myself. Reminds me a bit of Sheldon Jeffrey Sands who was supposed to be an evil character and stole the whole movie, creating many quick-beating hearts. (Right, DITHOT?)


You know me too well, nebraska! :drool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!


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