Still Life with Woodpecker: my favorite passages from the Tom Robbins 1980 ‘post modern fairy tale’

Still Life with Woodpecker, the 1980 ‘post modern fairy tale’ from Tom Robbins that follows the affair of an environmentalist princess and an outlaw, has to be one of my favorite novels.

It was the first novel from the irreverent and celebrated Robbins, and I love his ability to intersperse his own philosophy into his characters and story arc. Below, I share some of my favorite passages from the book.

  • “The sky is more impersonal than the sea. Above the birdline, higher than the last referential cloud, at an altitude that oxygen will not voluntarily frequent, acrosss a zone where light drives the speed limit and never stops for coffee, crossing that deser in which gravity is the only sheik, a vehicle, owned and operated by Northwest Orient Airlines, whistled through its nostrils as it bucked the current of the Pacific jet stream.”  p. 26
  • “Society had a crime problem. It hired cops to attack crime. Now society had a cop problem.” p. 29
  • “The jetliner whistled to conceal its fear of gravity.” p. 30
  • “For all its fluent resonance, a bomb says only one word — ‘Surprise!’ — and then applauds itself. p. 64
  • “We all dream profusely every night, yet by morning we’ve forgotten ninety percent of what went on. That’s why poets are such important members of society. Poets remember our dreams for us.” p. 95
  • “Equality is not in regarding different things similarly, equality is in regarding different things differently.” p. 97
  • “There’s no point in saving the world if it means losing the moon.” p. 128
  • “Three of the four elements are shared by all creatures, but fire was a gift to humans alone.” p. 161
  • “Niagara Falls have been looked at so much that they’ve become effete, sucked empty by too many stupid eyes.” p. 222
  • “The wedding was at dawn, and dawn had a nasty habit of showing up before breakfast.” p. 242

There are a number of longer passages I love that are just too long to transcribe, like the “neoteny” section on page 19 and ‘tunnel vision’ on page 86 and one on “intimacy” on page 150 and one on “hide and seek” on 244 one on what love is like on page 249.


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