Review of “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” by Tom Robbins

I focus on writing style rather than story in my reviews. It’s important to understand the difference because I didn’t enjoy any of the books I’ve read as part of my reading comprehension hobby. Like everybody else, I know what I like to read and I avoid reading those books. In case I’m sounding a little masochistic, let me add that I write my favorite novels rather than read them. I guess I’m narcissistic. Writing is a lot more fun than reading my favorite genres because it takes months rather than days. However, I have spent months reading some of these books. This one took more than a month to finish.

First, this book is well written, which means that it has few blatant grammatical or punctuation errors. So, it was relatively easy to read.

This book was published in 1976 and its pedigree is obvious in every page. About half the book consists of monologues by the author, sometimes thinly disguised as the words of the characters. These come in two types. The first is a summary of the first year of college. No subject is skipped, from geology to business. This was written when an encyclopedia was the best source of information and that’s how it reads. I checked a lot of the facts and they were accurate, especially for the time. The second kind of monologue consists of political and social diatribes, covering the gamut from the environment to women’s rights. This category also includes goofy ramblings on transcendental topics. Most of these diatribes are on subjects completely outside the scope of the story, which brings me to the story.

There is a story buried in all those regurgitations of Geology 101, Philosophy 101, Biology 101, etcetera, but it isn’t much. The story of Sissy Hankshaw is at most a novella. And don’t believe anything written about this book by reviewers, especially what’s printed on the back cover. Until I read this, I thought there was some kind of unspoken oath to be honest in the publication industry. No, there is not. The author spends so much time remembering (sometimes fondly) his college days, that he never got around to writing a novel.

The central character is a paper cut out, who periodically changes to a different person with no explanation, other than self-serving nonsense muttered by the author during frequent interludes. This is a cartoon disguised as a novel. It doesn’t even qualify as social satire because the author simply rants against his pet peeves, rather than presenting them within the context of a story.

For example, when the author realized he’d gotten carried away with some scenes that were special to him and presented them out of chronological order, he bragged about his error and, to prove who was smarter than us (we’d bought his book and given him money), ranted about the power he had over the reader. At another point, he went on a page-long tirade about sentences. These interruptions were continuous.

I don’t think any of the reviewers whose glowing comments I read, actually finished this book. My certainty of this was verified when I read the plot summary on Wikipedia. Wow! That’s not the book I read word after excruciating word.

This book is the worst I’ve read in my reading comprehension study, even below the Koran. It has no redeeming qualities. I can only hold it up as an example of a meme in the pre-digital age. Reading monkeys don’t actually read, but they like to pretend they do.

As a bonus, I was going to review the movie, but I couldn’t see it here in Australia. It wouldn’t play. The best I could do was see a 15 minute summary, using original film marked up to support the author’s faux-feminist concepts (my interpretation). Looking beyond the magic marker comments, I think the casting was excellent. It may have been a good movie, although it definitely varied widely from the novel. The movie outtakes I saw didn’t start until the second half of the book, and the male romantic lead never showed up, not even being listed in the credits. I don’t know if the many diversions are in the movie. I may watch it someday, just because I’m stubborn.

If I weren’t too lazy, I would tear every page out of this book, burn them, and spread the ashes in the ocean, so that no one else would have to read it.

It’s that bad, but this is only my humble opinion, as one of two or three people who read it cover to cover. (I don’t think the author was one of them.)

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