Can I just ask if anyone has read Villa Incognita, and what they think? Is it worth it? I ask because of Mort's bookshelf, shown below.
I just read that book and it is NOT one of Robbin's best in my opinion. He has some great passages and descriptions in there as usual--he's amazingly original with metaphor--but the book lacks depth in character and the ending is way too weak. I had a hard time getting through it, and didn't grow to care about the people in this novel like I usually do. Below are some other reviews. One has an interesting perspective on how she thinks 9/11 may have effected the novel.
Well, I'd just read "Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates" after many years spent with no Tom Robbins books at all. I suppose I had basicallly forgotten about the man, although when I consider it now "Still Life" and "Skinny Legs & All" were mightily enjoyable reads. Anyway, I moved to Seattle and that, for obvious reasons, fueled a reinterest/rediscovery of Robbins. "Fierce Invalids" is certainly one of the best books I've read this year. On the other hand, soon after (perhaps too soon after) "Invalids", my curiousity piqued, I purchased "Villa Incognito". Yesterday, I finished the book. Today, I feel compelled to review it. I did like reading of the tanukis, and the first half or so of the novel was quite engaging. There were two main problems, I felt. A tiny smattering of the characters held some level of interest for me (namely, Madame Ko), but, all in all, I found the book to lack character development or even character definition. The other problem was the ending, which happened about 300 pages immature. I have a theory about this. It seems that Robbins was in the process of writing "Villa Incognito" when the 9/11 attacks happened. I think this affected his writing, because on September 11th (in the book) everything basically falls apart. We lose the plot, and the characters get lost too. Some die, some run away, but very little is actually brought to a point of closure. So I believe that on 9/11 he simply gave up on this book. That he just needed to wrap it up and go on to something else, a post-9/11 novel, at "Villa Incognito"'s (and the reader's) expense. Unfortunate timing, as well, because I do think the novel had great potential. And so I say: Rather Disappointing.
Even sub-par Robbins makes me laugh
Modern readers are not used to intrusive narrators, a device that hearkens back to the earliest forms of the novel--Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy, for example. I think that's one hurdle for many readers of Villa Incognito. Another hurdle, for me, was the slow start--the Tanuki/tanuki prologue was way too much foregrounding. Satire can't afford to take that much time to develop. Once Robbins moves into the MIA/Madame Ko story, the book begins to move. Another weakness, I think, is that the characters are not as complete as in other Robbins works. I think this is because almost everyone of them is just another voice for the already intrusive narrator. I would have preferred more plot in which his characters could have devloped on their own, and less intrusive narrator. Particularly because there really doesn't seem to be the need for him, it's not as if Robbins uses his omniscience for time-shifting--the novel is pretty linear. Notwithstanding these considerable flaws, Robbins is still a master of the humorous simile and the absurd situation. He uses coincidence with the aplomb of Charles Dickens and is still capable of sharp questions and observations that puncture convention and conformity.