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Villa Incognito
Cover of Villa Incognito
Villa Incognito
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Imagine that there are American MIAs who chose to remain missing after the Vietnam War.

Imagine that there is a family in which four generations of strong, alluring women have shared a mysterious connection to an outlandish figure from Japanese folklore.

Imagine just those things (don't even try to imagine the love story) and you'll have a foretaste of Tom Robbins's eighth and perhaps most beautifully crafted novel--a work as timeless as myth yet as topical as the latest international threat.

On one level, this is a book about identity, masquerade and disguise--about "the false mustache of the world"--but neither the mists of Laos nor the smog of Bangkok, neither the overcast of Seattle nor the fog of San Francisco, neither the murk of the intelligence community nor the mummery of the circus can obscure the linguistic phosphor that illuminates the pages of Villa Incognito.

A female fan once wrote to Tom Robbins:
"Your books make me think, they make me laugh, they make me horny and they make me aware of the wonder of everything in life."

Villa Incognito will surely arouse a similar response in many readers, for in its lusty, amusing way it both celebrates existence and challenges our ideas about it.

To say much more about a novel as fresh and surprising as Villa Incognito would run the risk of diluting the sheer fun of reading it. As his dedicated readers worldwide know full well, it's best to climb aboard the Tom Robbins tilt-a-whirl, kiss preconceptions and sacred cows goodbye and simply enjoy the ride.

From the Hardcover edition.
Imagine that there are American MIAs who chose to remain missing after the Vietnam War.

Imagine that there is a family in which four generations of strong, alluring women have shared a mysterious connection to an outlandish figure from Japanese folklore.

Imagine just those things (don't even try to imagine the love story) and you'll have a foretaste of Tom Robbins's eighth and perhaps most beautifully crafted novel--a work as timeless as myth yet as topical as the latest international threat.

On one level, this is a book about identity, masquerade and disguise--about "the false mustache of the world"--but neither the mists of Laos nor the smog of Bangkok, neither the overcast of Seattle nor the fog of San Francisco, neither the murk of the intelligence community nor the mummery of the circus can obscure the linguistic phosphor that illuminates the pages of Villa Incognito.

A female fan once wrote to Tom Robbins:
"Your books make me think, they make me laugh, they make me horny and they make me aware of the wonder of everything in life."

Villa Incognito will surely arouse a similar response in many readers, for in its lusty, amusing way it both celebrates existence and challenges our ideas about it.

To say much more about a novel as fresh and surprising as Villa Incognito would run the risk of diluting the sheer fun of reading it. As his dedicated readers worldwide know full well, it's best to climb aboard the Tom Robbins tilt-a-whirl, kiss preconceptions and sacred cows goodbye and simply enjoy the ride.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book It has been reported that Tanuki fell from the sky using his scrotum as a parachute.That is not so ridiculous when we take into account the unusual size of Tanuki's scrotum.

    Well, okay, it's still pretty ridiculous--and no less so just because in relation to his overall body mass, Tanuki's scrotum is proportionately larger than the scrota of elephants, whales, and the Jolly Green Giant. In those days, his testicular balloon bag may actually have been even more voluminous than it is today, though that's difficult to imagine since his balls very nearly drag the ground as it is, and any increase in volume would surely have been an impediment to mobility if, indeed, not a source of some pain. There is also the possibility that Tanuki had (and perhaps still has) the power to increase or decrease scrotum size at will.

    Yet, having said all that, we must concede that the role of anatomical size per se in Tanuki's descent is not easy to determine, and a more pertinent question might be not how the badger managed to use his significant seed sack to parachute to earth but, rather: Where did he parachute from? And why?

    Knock! Knock!

    "Who's there?"

    "Tanuki."

    "Tanuki who?"

    "Don't be stupid. Tanuki. Himself."

    "Oh, I see. Well, where did you come from, Tanuki himself?"

    "From the Other World."

    "What other world?"

    "The one before this one, moron. The World of the Animal Ancestors." His voice could have been shoveled from a gravel pit.

    "Ah so. Excuse me, then, honorable animal ancestor. How did you get here?"

    "Parachuted in. It's strictly forbidden, of course. Against all the rules. But what the hell. . . ."

    The farmer looked around for signs of equipment, for a silk canopy, specifically, and a harness.

    "Never mind that," growled Tanuki.

    "Well, what is it you want here?"

    "To drink rice wine."

    "Sake? Understandable, but I don't think so. From the look of the grin on your face, you've drunk too much sake already. Anything else?"

    "Yes. Girls. Young, pretty girls."

    The man snorted such a laugh that something shot out of his nostril. "Forget about it. No girl would have anything to do with a funny-looking creature like you."

    "Don't be too sure, old fool," snarled Tanuki, and with that he butted the farmer in the midsection with such force that the man fell to the ground, speechless, gasping for breath. Then, on his hind legs, round belly jiggling like a Santa Claus implant, the badger waddled over to the well where the man's daughter was filling water jars, and fixed her with his toothy, high-voltage grin, a smile so overheated and manic and wild it could crack a funhouse mirror or peel the lacquer off the chopsticks in a maiden's hair.

    What immediately follows is a brief, and only partial, clarification concerning Tanuki's nature. To wit: while virtually everyone refers to him as a "badger," to the point where

    "Badger" is practically his second name, the scientific truth is, Tanuki is not a badger at all. Any zoologist will gladly point out that tanukis are a species of East Asian wild dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides), possessing the long snout, coloration, and markings of a raccoon, although lacking the raccoon's famous ringed tail.

    The fact that tanukis are nearly tailless, coupled with their penchant for standing upright on their hind legs, undoubtedly plays a role in Tanuki's being so generally regarded in an anthropomorphic light. At the edge of a dark forest, it would be fairly easy for the impressionable to mistake a tanuki for a little man. But, thanks to his otherworldly powers, there happens to be an even more legitimate...
About the Author-
  • Tom Robbins, maverick author of eight juicy, daring and sagacious novels, is one of those rare writers who approach rock-star status, attracting SRO crowds at his personal appearances in Europe and Australia as well as in the United States. He lives primarily in the Seattle area.


    From the Hardcover edition.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 14, 2003
    Donald Barthelme once said, "Those who never attempt the absurd never achieve the impossible." Robbins (Still Life with Woodpecker; Jitterbug Perfume; etc.) has made a career of attempting and achieving both, and in this, his eighth novel, he pulls it off again. Here we have weirdness personified, a quirky, outrageous concoction that is a joy to the imagination. The novel begins with the story of Tanuki, a badgerlike Asian creature with a reputation as a changeling and trickster and a fondness for sake. Also part of the cast is a beautiful young woman who may or may not have Tanuki's blood in her veins (but definitely does have a chrysanthemum seed embedded in the roof of her mouth), and three American MIAs who have chosen to remain in Laos long after the Vietnam War. Events are set in motion when one of the MIAs, dressed as a priest, is arrested with a cache of heroin taped to his body. In vintage Robbins style, the plot whirls every which way, as the author, writing with unrestrained glee, takes potshots at societal pillars: the military, big business and religions of all ilks. The language is eccentric, electrifying and true to the mark. A few examples: "The afternoon passed more slowly than a walnut-sized kidney stone"; "He crooned the way a can of cheap dog food might croon if a can of cheap dog food had a voice"; "Dickie's heart felt suddenly like an iron piano with barbwire strings and scorpions for keys." While the ending is a bit of a letdown, this is delectable farce, full of tantalizing secrets and bizarre disguises. Author tour.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2003
    Eccentric American fliers Mars Stubblefield, Dickie Goldwire, and Dern Foley are shot down in Laos in the waning days of the Vietnam War. Officially missing in action, they opt to stay missing when the war ends, fashioning a comfortable existence in a remote mountain village by selling opiates to Asian hospices. When Dern is arrested on Guam with a load of heroin, those in the outside world, from the CIA to his spinster sisters in Seattle, suddenly become aware of the trio's existence, with highly disturbing consequences. Intertwined with this story is that of the trickster Tanuki, a badgerlike creature from Japanese folklore, who impregnates a young girl. Her great-granddaughter, Lisa Ko, who carries a mysterious chrysanthemum seed embedded in the roof of her mouth, eventually makes her way to the fliers' mountaintop hideaway and builds a circus act around real-life tanukis. As outlandishly imaginative as ever, Robbins has nevertheless written a rather short book by his recent standards, with the brevity resulting less from concision than a lack of development. Still, given Robbins's avid readership, public libraries will want this. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/02.]-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA

    Copyright 2003 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • People "Robbins...is to words what Uri Geller is to spoons: He bends sentences into playful escapades....Bottom line: Another bedside attraction."
  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Brilliantly offbeat satire."
  • Publishers Weekly, starred review "A delectable farce, full of tantalizing secrets and bizarre disguises."
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch "Ebullient, irreverent, hilarious...Villa Incognito is ribald fairy tale meets...Apocalypse Now."
  • Globe and Mail "Robbins remains a welcome breath of fresh air in American literature."
  • Pages "Perhaps [the] greatest book from Robbins...phantasmagorical, richly layered, utterly hilarious, and unexpectedly poignant."
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    Random House Publishing Group
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