Tom Robbins Loves Beer & Women"/>
Like a lot of men, the great LaConner novelist Tom Robbins loves beer and women. Unlike a lot of men, he's capable of writing about both, eloquently and humorously, at great length and for considerable personal financial gain. And unlike most men, Robbins can appreciate the beer without the women, and vice versa. But sometimes, as in B Is for Beer, his peculiar new "grown-up book for children," he keeps the women and the beer conjoined, albeit in a decidedly asexual manner.
The protagonist of Robbins' breezy 125-page tome is a kindergartener from Seattle named Gracie Perkel, who becomes obsessed with the foamy gold stuff at the urging of her salty Uncle Moe, who skips town with a lover before he can properly educate the wee one as to beer's transformational powers. Hence, she sets to acquiring that knowledge herself, with a mid-book assist from the spritely Beer Fairy, who provides thorough lessons in both how beer is created and how it causes certain people to act.Herein, Robbins equates the consumption of beer with religion, or, short of that, an out-of-body experience that brings the drinker closer to his or her inner divinity. This is serious business to Robbins, a genuine beer connoisseur who places hops and yeast above all spirits. For a story about endangered taverns, he once told me: "You have the yeast in beer, and the air is full of yeast spores. Right now, you're breathing yeast spores, and so am I. Yeast is a fungus, and related to mushrooms. Those spores might have drifted down from other solar systems; they are biologically capable of that. So they're simultaneously subterranean and extraterrestrial. You can't say that about gin."
But why, then, does Robbins feel the need to gear this book toward the underage? "At the very least," he says, "they need a clearer understanding of why their dad keeps a second refrigerator in the garage, and why he says up late out there on school nights with his shirt off, listening to Aerosmith."
Robbins' fans expecting a natural heir of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues or Jitterbug Perfume may come away from Beer a tad let down. But remember: This is a children's book (on an adult topic, granted), and it's written as such. That's not to say it's short on inventive prose and off-color observations, it's just nowhere near as florid and dense as your average Robbins' undertaking. But for what it is, it's singularly unique and delightful.
Tom Robbins will appear at Elliott Bay Book Co. (101 S. Main St.) on May 21 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss his new book.