Buntspecht : so was wie eine Liebesgeschichte

by Tom Robbins

Other authorsThomas Lindquist (Translator)
Paperback, 1988



Call number

HU 7480 B942



Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt


Fiction. Literature. HTML:�Robbins�s comic philosophical musings reveal a flamboyant genius.��People Still Life with Woodpecker is a sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads.

User reviews

LibraryThing member pscindy
I tried to write this review in the style of Tom Robbins. I wanted "something more than words. I [wanted] to send my readers armloads of crystals, some of which are the colors of orchids and peonies, some of which pick up radio signals from a secret city which is half Paris and half Coney Island."
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I soon discovered it can't be done. No one writes in the style of Tom Robbins. All you can do when you find a sentence like that on the very first page is to smile in wonder, and eagerly keep reading. Robbins loves playing with words. His metaphors will make your mind do joyous little dances.

So, OK. The language is wonderful. I would happily read Robbins' account of watching paint dry, or a day filling out tax forms. Even his shopping list is probably a million laughs. Fortunately, I don't have to. I have right here a copy of Still Life With Woodpecker.

Who knows how to make love stay? What is the purpose of the moon? Whatever happened to the golden ball? Robbins repeats these questions, and others, several times throughout the novel. Every time, he provides a slightly different answer. The book reads like an improvised jam session. Every seeming return to a main theme leads to a new and surprising conclusion. And, like the very best musicians, Robbins makes it all look effortless.

It's also very funny. It's not just one-liners, though there are plenty of those ("I have a black belt in haiku. And a black vest in the cleaners." "Plato did claim that the unexamined life was not worth living. Oedipus Rex was not so sure.") Robbins' best jokes are entwined within page-long philosophies and digressions, and can not be quoted out of context.

The plot is deceptively simple: Girl meets boy. She's a princess, he's an outlaw. Et cetera. It sounds like a book you've read a thousand times before. The difference is, Tom Robbins wrote this book, so the plot really isn't the point. The ideas, and Robbins' presentation of them, are the real driving force.
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LibraryThing member kittyjay
Tom Robbins’s Still Life With Woodpecker tells the story of Princess Leigh-Cheri, a social activist, romantic, and impossibly beautiful redhead, and her meeting with the infamous Bernard Wrangle, AKA the Woodpecker, a self-proclaimed outlaw who blows things up because – well, why not? As they
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fall headfirst into romance, they muse on how to make love stay, the nature of objects, and society at large.

I am going to tell a story that I promise is relevant, if you will just bear with me. When I was 18 or so, I read The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. While I still think it’s a great book, my experience reading it at 18 was almost transcendental. Every sentence captured my attention, seemed mind-blowing and groundbreaking. I reveled in each idea, certain that it was new and exciting and wondering how on earth no one had ever noticed these things before. I waxed poetic and was generally insufferable, pestering all of my friends to read it and feeling heartbroken when they admitted that they didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. (For the record, I repeated this with Sometimes a Great Notion, but by then my friends knew to ignore me). From what I gather, most people have that book. For many, it was The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Maybe it was something more obscure. Whatever it was, as a teenager, to whom everything was new, it seemed to be the most rebellious, insightful, and exciting thing in the world.

Still Life With Woodpecker is that experience in book form.

I went in not knowing what to expect, but the blurb on the back assured me in a friendly, just-between-us-readers tone that, “Robbin’s comic philosophical musings reveal a flamboyant genius”. Instead, I found myself struggling to even make it through the book, I was so bored.

Since that’s primarily where my experiences as a teenager come in, let’s start with the “philosophical” part of that statement. I have read that some consider Still Life With Woodpecker to be a modern – or postmodern – fairy tale, and I’ll admit it shares some similarities, but not flattering ones. Fairy tales aren’t known for their characterization. Often the main characters are known only by their description: the princess, the prince, the frog, the witch, etc. Princess Leigh-Cheri and Bernard are almost utterly flat. When I said that Princess Leigh-Cheri was a social activist and romantic, that is precisely what she is: nothing more, nothing less. She could have easily been referred to as “the romantic” throughout with no confusion whatsoever. Bernard is, of course, “the outlaw”. Both of them speak in slick back-and-forth exchanges or long, deep, meaningful monologues – or, at least, they’re meant to be deep and meaningful, but instead they’re just pop-slogans repeated with all the depth of thought of a bumper sticker. Take Bernard’s assertion that, “I’m an outlaw, not a hero. I never intended to rescue you. We’re our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves” (99). I’m not saying that this idea is without merit, but there is never any thoughtful discourse in it – it’s said, it’s done, let’s move on. And that’s how the entire book’s philosophy is: let me introduce a short slogan, the kind that hints at an actual meaningful idea, the kind that invites thoughtful discourse, and let’s move on and forget about it.

There are some interesting ideas in here, like the idea that what we think of as “love” is really just an interest in “mystery” – that when love dies, it’s really the mystery that has died. The last third of the book or so concentrates on the nature of objects and animation. Bernard himself has some ideas on victimization, criminals, and outlaws that are well-worth thinking about, but Robbins never develops any of them, and they move so fast as to not even allow them to be a springboard to independent thought. They remain soundbytes and slogans, told with all the arrogant conviction of a teenager who thinks he (or she) has found something truly new.

As for the “comic” part… there were a few parts I laughed – including a darkly hilarious scene when Bernard sits on an unfortunate Chihuahua and the background adventures of the hapless CIA agent Chuck – but on the whole, I found it more obnoxious than anything. He is of the type of people who think that absurdity and hilarity are the same thing. Many people have noted his writing style, which is wildly imaginative, and I fully agree. There was one line in particular that is so absolutely perfect that I had to pause and read it again for the sheer pleasure of the wordplay: “With Pioneer Inn’s meeting hall in bad state of repair, with cops, newspeople, and curiosity-seekers milling around the place like bargain-minded lemmings at a suicide sale…” (53). That is a truly delightful sentence. I love it. But sometimes his imagination can be off-putting, even gross. There are too many euphemisms for Princess Leigh-Cheri’s vagina to mention, but the top ones included: peachfish, peachclam, and, my personal disfavorite, “the folds of saltmeat and peach” with a “seaweed trigger” (158).

His comedy style is rough, with harsh edges that could stand some polishing down. It feels like a first draft: hectic, whirlwind, with no time to develop anything, be it characterization, philosophical ideas, or humor. Humor builds upon itself and needs a foundation, so while a few parts can be funny, it feels shaky and disjointed as a whole.

Honestly, I have a feeling this is the type of book best read when you’re 18. It teases deep thought, its breakneck pace is exhilarating to a certain age, and its writing is engineered and slick. As a 26-year-old, however, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Now get off my damn lawn.
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LibraryThing member annaxt
I must have thought a thousand times that I ought to write to my absolute favourite writer Tom Robbins. But it never happens. What always stops me is shyness. I don't know what to say. How can I do his books justice without the words falling flat? How do you address the pharao of fine-tuned
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formulations? What do you write to the king of consonants, sultan of sentences, master of meaningfulness, Allah of alliteration? This man whose brain must resemble a carnival of fractals, a manic maelstrom of magical dreams? This old hippie whose thoughts and visions are more powerful than a nuclear bomb in a cocktail glass? Imagine Tage Danielsson on acid, high as a house, flowing from an oil lamp; that's Tom Robbins for you. What do you say to such a man? Is there anything else to do than to throw yourself flat on the ground and kiss his toes (probably in a pair of worn and muddy sandals)? How could I explain what his books have meant to me, in a way that doesn't sound like the Swedish chef in the Muppets?

I give up the idea of a fan letter – once again – and try to describe instead my thoughts about Tom Robbins book, "Still Life With Woodpecker" which I just finished reading a few hours ago.

Brief background: Tom Robbins is almost completely unknown in Sweden, but has written 10 books since 1971 (he was born in the 30's, so if I do not get my thumb out and write that fan letter soon I'll have to go on a pilgrimage barefoot to his grave, as the wretched sinner I am (it would certainly be more appropriate to go on that pilgrimage bare skinned. I'll have to think about it.)). His most famous book is "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" which was filmed in 1993 by Gus van Sant, with Uma Thurman in the lead role.

I borrowed the book "Jitterbug Perfume" from a boyfriend many many years ago (I just realized that I completely forgot to return it, sorry J!) and was completely enchanted. I was young and had to look up at least ten words on each page: Robbins' English contains words from all corners of the wordworld and often has a double-entendre: it's equilibrism on a high level, like when a clown stumbles forward at a furious pace on a tightrope: one must be very skilled to make it seem so easy.

Then I read it again and again, about every five years, five times. Finally, someone asked if I could recommend any of his other books. His other books? It hadn't occurred to me to read them. What if they were not as good? What if they did not include the moon, beets, steamy sex, genius waitresses, indigo and eternal life? Finally, I came to my senses and read "Even Cowgirls ..." (which was so-so) and "Skinny Legs and All" (which is fantastic) and now "Still Life with Woodpecker", written in 1980, four years before JP.

It's about ... uh ... It's about ... uhm ... oohm ah ouumm ... It's about how to make love stay. And about how to survive inside a pyramid when it explodes (in a pack of cigarettes). It contains some practical, simple recipes for homemade bombs. It's about contraception, about slippery sex between redheads, the moon's influence on the revolution and the necessity of lawlessness. It is a love story and a breakneck adventure, as usual when Robbins takes the pen (or in this case, his electric typewriter). The main character is, as often, a woman, and sometimes it's hard to believe that Tom Robbins is a man.

"Still Life with Woodpecker" was not as good as "Jitterbug Perfume", almost as good as "Skinny Legs and All", and absolutely wonderful.

English Wikipedia has this to say about Tom Robbins: "His bestselling novels are often wildly poetic stories with a strong social and philosophical undercurrent, an irreverent bent, and scenes extrapolated from carefully researched bizarre facts."

And if you're not on your way, head over heels, at this very moment, to steal, borrow or buy his books, I really don't know what more to say.

(Again, in Swedish:)

Tusen gånger har jag tänkt att jag ska skriva till min absoluta favoritförfattare Tom Robbins. Men hittills har det aldrig blivit av. Det som alltid stoppar mig är blyghet. Jag vet inte vad jag ska säga. Hur kan jag göra hans böcker rättvisa utan att orden faller platt? Hur ska man tilltala de finslipade formuleringarnas främste framförare? Vad skriver man till kungen av konsonanter, vokalernas välgörare, meningarnas och meningsfullhetens mästare, Allah av allitterationer? Denne man vars hjärna måste likna en karneval av fraktaler, en manisk malström av magiska drömmar? Denna gamla hippie vars tankar och visioner är mer kraftfulla än en atombomb i ett cocktailglas? Tänk er Tage Danielsson på syra, hög som ett hus, strömmande ur en oljelampa; där har ni Tom Robbins. Vad säger man? Finns det något annat än att slänga sig platt på marken och kyssa hans tår (förmodligen i ett par slitna och leriga sandaler)? Hur skulle jag kunna förklara vad hans böcker har betytt för mig, på ett sätt som inte låter som den svenske kocken i Mupparna?

Jag ger upp tanken på ett beundrarbrev – igen – och försöker istället beskriva mina tankar om Tom Robbins bok "Still Life With Woodpecker" som jag läste ut för några timmar sen.

Kort bakgrund: Tom Robbins är nästan helt okänd i Sverige, men har skrivit 10 böcker sedan 1971 (han är född på 30-talet, så om jag inte får tummen ur och skriver det där beundrarbrevet snart lär jag få vallfärda barfota till hans grav som den usla syndare jag är (det vore förvisso mer passande att vallfärda naken. men vi får se hur det blir med det.)). Hans mest kända bok är "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" som filmades 1993 av Gus van Sant, med Uma Thurman i huvudrollen.

Jag fick låna boken "Jitterbug Perfume" av en pojkvän för många många år sedan (det slår mig nu att jag helt har glömt att lämna tillbaka den, förlåt J!) och blev helt förtrollad. Jag var ung och var tvungen att slå upp säkert tio ord på varje sida: hans engelska innehåller ord från ordklotets alla hörn och har ofta dubbelmening; man får ofta känslan av ekvilibrism på hög nivå, som när en clown snubblar fram i rasande tempo på en lina: man måste vara oerhört skicklig för att få det att verka så lätt. Sen läste jag den igen, och igen, ungefär vart femte år, fem gånger. Till slut var det någon som frågade om jag kunde rekommendera någon av hans andra böcker. Hans andra böcker? Det hade inte slagit mig att läsa dem. Tänk om de inte var lika bra? Tänk om de inte innehöll månen, rödbetor, ångande sex, geniala servitriser, indigo och evigt liv? Till sist tog jag mitt förnuft till fånga och läste "Even Cowgirls …" (som var sådär) och "Skinny Legs and All" (som är helt fantastisk) och nu då, "Still Life with Woodpecker", skriven 1980, fyra år före JP.

Den handlar om … Den handlar ooomm … oooohhm ahh ouummm … Den handlar om hur man får kärleken att stanna. Och om hur man överlever inuti en pyramid när den sprängs (i ett cigarettpaket). Den innehåller några praktiska, enkla recept på hemgjorda bomber. Den handlar om preventivmedel, om slipprigt sex mellan rödhåriga, om månens inflytande på revolutionen och om laglöshetens nödvändighet. Det är en kärlekshistoria och ett halsbrytande äventyr, som vanligt när Robbins fattar pennan (eller i det här fallet sin elektriska skrivmaskin). Huvudpersonen är, som ofta, en kvinna, och ibland är det svårt att tro att Robbins är en man.

"Still Life with Woodpecker" var inte lika bra som "Jitterbug Perfume", nästan lika bra som "Skinny Legs and All" och alldeles, alldeles underbar.

Engelska Wikipedia har följande att säga om Tom Robbins: His bestselling novels are often wildly poetic stories with a strong social and philosophical undercurrent, an irreverent bent, and scenes extrapolated from carefully researched bizarre facts.

Och om du inte är på väg hals över huvud i detta nu för att låna eller köpa hans böcker så vet jag inte vad mer jag kan säga.
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LibraryThing member sometimeunderwater
Occasionally, Robbins comes off like an airport Pynchon: just that little bit sillier. Characters are all caricatures (a fair criticism of Pynchon) and some of the jokes are absolute eye-rollers (ditto). He also shares a sometimes-monomaniacal concern in conspiracy theories and American
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But he's lacking two things. Firstly, any sense of profundity - this novel always felt flippant and silly, rather than ever hinting at deeper truths. Secondly, the writing is simply okay, never poetry.

Still, enjoyable enough.
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LibraryThing member Kyniska
Not a huge fan of Robbin's writing style; so far, it fails to totally engage me and I always end up putting his books down and doing something else for a few weeks. Despite these setbacks, I managed to finish Still Life With Woodpecker. I hold Tom Robbins in high esteem for his ability to use his
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books to share philosophy and I always agree wholeheatedly with his humorous yet miraculous views on life and human existence, meaning he appeals to both my common sense and my inner judgement. I'd gladly follow him as my guru (yes, I am aware of his opinion of gurus from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues), but as for wrapping me up in a story, he just doesn't do it for me.
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LibraryThing member m.belljackson
Books starts off clever enough with "Who knows how to make love stay?"

I read it to the end because it was recommended as both hysterically funny and a classic of some unknown genre.

Sounds promising enough, then came the ungainly "peach fish," the goofy Argons, the awful lust scenes proceeded
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Bernard's tedious, tiresome, and juvenile backstories, killing the dog (got me to skim in 10 minutes to the end),
unfunny plot, dialogue, and characters, along with some puns.

Worst of all was the direct mention of Bernard's bombing of Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
The spin-off fictionalized recounting totally trivialized and insulted the memory of Robert Fassnacht,
the man who was actually killed.
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LibraryThing member Arctic-Stranger
How do you make love last? Indeed. Robbins can tell a very good story, and this is a very good story. Funny, tragic, erotic, mundane and always entertaining, this is the tale of what happens when a princess hooks up with an outlaw. READ THIS BOOK!
LibraryThing member angela.vaughn
I got this book on referral from an old friend. I was surprised at the story line and for personal reasons, I enjoyed the little sayings between the Woodpecker and the Princess. I found it wildly funny the notion of love between the two, and a little touched at the same time. It threw me a little
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when I saw it was an actual love story in modern times. I can say that I may not refer it to my grandma, but maybe an open minded friend.
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LibraryThing member VVilliam
Tom Robbins' style takes a bit to get into, but then it's great. A very poetic book with amazing insights and theories. Even the throw-away jokes are top-notch. A great book to put love in perspective and have a great time.
LibraryThing member jawalter

A little disappointing, in that it felt like a pretty close reproduction of the other Tom Robbins books that I've read, but I guess I shouldn't give the guy too much crap for being able to do one thing, and do it well.

This was another enjoyable read, with memorable characters and unusual plot
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twists, managing to serve as a showcase for Robbins' demonstrable love of hearing himself talk as well as his very apparent, yet somewhat mystifying, issues with women. I still can't decide if he loves, fears, hates, or is disgusted by women, but I can't shake the feeling that he doesn't really know anything about them. Then again, lacking any such knowledge myself, who am I to criticize?

The standout section of the book for me was Leigh-Cherie's self-imprisonment. Robbins is the kind of author who seems to benefit greatly when stripped of excess stimuli (a fact of which I think he might be aware, based solely on his apparent interest in isolated locales), and he is able to riff quite extensively with little more than a pack of cigarettes.

I still think he's more than a little full of bullshit (as well as being full of himself), but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.
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LibraryThing member miketroll
A lot of fun! Impossible to categorise.
LibraryThing member hlselz
This book was MAD crazy. It is a crazy love story that talks about cigerettes and the problems with red heads. It is weird, and out there, but very funny and good.
LibraryThing member meridius
My favorite love story. I can re-read this and Robbin's other books I've read for the rest of my life. Byzantine, profane, hilarious, and trenchant.
LibraryThing member s_mcinally
I picked this up from a shelf in a flat stay while on holiday in Barcelona and devoured it. Thoroughly enjoyed it, can't remember why and can't remember much about it, just remember thinking I must read some more and thats what I did, read another two before he lost my interest.
LibraryThing member sadiebooks
oh my god! the first tom robbins i ever read. its also the best i think. "i love you for free." my favorite line bar none. read it. tom robbins is a genius.
LibraryThing member HvyMetalMG
Very strange little book, but quite different and imaginative. Obviously Robbins, a cult-favorite among the hippy Phish crowd, must have been under the influence of something while he wrote this. It certainly feels that way. But it reminded me of a fairy tale on crack. I read this a while ago, but
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nothing really stands out. Maybe it was all one bad trip.
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LibraryThing member LostFrog
Definitely one of my favorite books, and certainly my favorite Tom Robbins book. It's just so romantic, in a really weird way. His writing is just so awesome, the metaphors so strange, and the ideas and subject matter so unique. It's a lovely book.
LibraryThing member ald83
I have read almost all of Robbins' books, and they are all amazing. Such a great writing style and sense of humor! This is by far my favorite though!
LibraryThing member martyr13
Another phenomenal effort from Mr. Robbins. This is actually the first one I read on my way to reading them all. Tom Robbin's books are not for everyone, but for the people who love his writings he has brought some magic, mystery, and fun into our worlds.
LibraryThing member CarolO
A stranger walked up to me and sat down at my desk. He handed me a well used copy of Still Life with Woodpecker and told me that I MUST read this book...and then he was gone. I never saw him again but, honestly, this is how I was introduced to Tom Robbins' books. Yes, I am a redhead. Yes, I loved
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this book.
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LibraryThing member JamieLynn1969
This is a weird book, but for some reason I can not put it down.
LibraryThing member sfisk
I love all his stuff

I smoked Camel non filters for 25 years so I showed plenty of people the "magic" on every pack...

Read him obsessively one summer!
LibraryThing member klmccauliff
Very well written but a little too fantasy fiction for my tastes.
LibraryThing member jwcs81
"Still Life With Woodpecker" was my first encounter with author Tom Robbins. A self proclaimed "sort" of love story which seeks to answer the question, "How to make love stay." The story is woven around Leigh-Cheri, a princess from exiled lineage living out that exile in the Pacific Northwest
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Seeking to restore the respectability and honor of the princess, Leigh-Cheri sets out for Care Fest in Hawaii. A gathering of extremely concerned citizens in festival form, the keynote speaker--Ralph Nader. In Hawaii, Princess Leigh-Cheri encounters one Bernard Wrangler (aka the woodpecker). The woodpecker is committed to his dynamite, interestingly it is a failed explosiion that thrusts Bernard into the life of Princess Leigh-Cheri. An "explosive" chemistry insues.

Robbins shows a mastery of imagery and the ironic. He is a philosopher who's purest language appears to be the absurd. It is a fantastic read, enjoyable and provoking. An attack on power. A gasp for love.
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LibraryThing member catsigh
Yum. I loved this book 20 years ago. Today, although I'm a bit more jaded about life and love, it takes me back to my idealistic youth. This is the first book I've felt the need to use the highlight function on my ereader because there are such good lines. Since this book was an important one to me
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2o years ago, I feel it gives me a look into my own psyche. I probably could do without the graphic sex scenes though. As an adult they just seem a little awkward and seem to drag on. I'm going to have to check out some of Robbins newer stuff to see how he has grown up too.
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Prometheus Award (Nominee — Novel — 1982)


Original language


Original publication date



3-499-15148-0 / 9783499151484
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