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Villa Incognito [Paperback]

Tom Robbins
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 Oct 2004
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. These things are just a small taster of Robbins's eighth and perhaps most beautifully crafted novel - a work as timeless as a myth, yet as topical as the latest international threat.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: No Exit Press (1 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842431021
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842431023
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Robbins has been called "a vital natural resource" by The Portland Oregonian, "one of the wildest and most entertaining novelists in the world" by the FT, and "the most dangerous writer in the world today" by Fernanda Pivano of Italy's Corriere della Sera. A Southerner by birth, Robbins has lived in and around Seattle since 1962. His novels include Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, Jitterbug Perfume, Still Life With Woodpecker, Skinny Legs And All and Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas.

Product Description


Ebullient, irreverent, hilarious...ribald fairytale meets Apocalypse Now -- St Louis Post Dispatch

Impossibly imaginative -- Vanity Fair --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Robbins made easy 25 Aug 2005
By A Customer
Tom Robbins is the absolute master of the mind tickling metaphor and of rolling up philosophy into the guise of a fun, sexy romp. At least usually. In this book, however, it's as though he has lost patience with being too clever or has forgotten that Buddhist life-flow style which allowed it to roll out as an underlying message. Here you'll get the philosophy spelt out by one of the heroes very directly. It's as if Robbins is leaving a simplified decoder for readers who lacked the sensitivity to find the same messages more subtly layered beneath the apparent action in more deeply satisfying previous works (most magnificently Jitterbug Perfume). It's Robbins for beginners - and given the backward forms of formula religious dullardism sweeping the western world he's probably wise to do this - and maybe open a few eyes for whom the 'real' Robbins is simply a whole quantum beyond their experience.

If, on the other hand you were already in tune with the mind-bendingly brilliant thoughts behind Jitterbug Perfume, this is not going to appeal quite as much.... and you might ask for those beetroots over old Tanuki.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously Funny. 2 April 2010
They say there is a novelist in all of us..well the one that has always been struggling to get out of me is Tom Robbins...a guy who can write serious novels in an off the wall style that will have you laughing out loud while pondering the meaning of life at the same time.
This is not Robbins' best novel but there is still a great deal to enjoy.
Oh and by the way Robbins wrote my favourite quote of all time....
" It is never too late to have a happy childhood'..(Still Life with Woodpecker)
Treat the child in you to all of Tom Robbins' work... and inspire the adult in you too.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as Still Life of a Woodpecker! 15 Aug 2009
another great Tom Robbins book but slightly below those such as Still Life of a Woodpecker. Great read nonetheless
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Spiritual Fable with Vivid Epigrams 4 Jun 2004
"East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." Mr. Robbins has taken that premise as a challenge to his ingenuity and he crafts a memorable tale to show the collision of mindsets. I particularly admired his willingness to contrast ancient religious beliefs like animism with the major established creeds. As a result, the story becomes secondary to his educational purpose . . . and that makes the book a weak one from many perspectives.
If you don't want to learn about eastern philosophies, then you will hate this book. It's taking you somewhere where you don't want to go. If you already know a lot about eastern philosophies, you will find this book is much too superficial to be interesting. If you are looking for a good story that keeps moving from page to page, you will probably be disappointed in the slow pace of describing synchronicity . . . which seems to be the author's purpose. If you want to study how to display philosophical issues in a novel, then the book is of average interest to writers and critics. I would suggest looking to Atlas Shrugged as a better way to get the point across . . . by giving the story a driving force and memorable characters.
The story develops from several perspectives, beginning with the spiritual messenger, Tanuki, embodied on earth as a tanuki, an East Asian species of wild dog with a large scrotum. Tanuki begets a child with a human woman, and impresses a seed into the child's palate. The descendant of that child becomes a circus performer who trains, what else, tanukis. From the United States, three aviators find themselves shot down and left behind in Laos. Eventually forgotten, they escape and decide to live the simple life in a mountainous region that evokes memories of James Hilton's Shangri-La in Lost Horizon.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  124 reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 for Wordplay, 4 for Plot, 3 for Resolution 29 April 2003
By Karl Miller - Published on
Tom Robbins is a great American treasure. His novels have entertained (and confounded) his ardent fan base for nearly 30 years, and his style of writing is as original as it gets.
"Villa Incognito", his 8th (and, along with the classic "Still Life", one of his shortest) novels opens in typical Robbins fashion - parallel stories seperated by generations, farcical characters and an alluring female whom you somehow know is going to tie the entire story together. The action in "VI" is primarily set in Asia (which gives Robbins a chance to focus on herion as the drug of reference in this novel), where 3 Vietnam (thought to be) MIA's have established their own Walden. Meanwhile, the possible offspring of a Tanuki (don't ask, just trust me that only Robbins could make such a mythical character work SO WELL) and her circus comrades worms her way into the story, creating the mischief that Robbins works so well with his female creations (think Amanda from "Another Roadside Attraction", or the exotic dancer from "Skinny Legs and All" ).
As always, Robbins words simply sparkle. His ability to fashion similes remains unchallenged in modern writing. And the "modern time" sections of the story allow Tom (and his fans) the pleasure of Bush-bashing, 9/11 ruminating, and general "religion-government-organized society is failing us" rambling.
Unfortunately, the story runs into serious trouble after about 150 pages. You see where he wants to go, but lately Robbins has had a bad habit of letting his strong talents get in the way of a solid finish. It's not as bad as "Fierce Invalids" (which crumbled under its own weight), but then again, at only 230 or so pages, there isn't as much room to fail here.
One really has small reason to complain whenever there is some fresh TR on the market - no other wirter makes a reader simply giggle quite like Tom. And he isn't afraid to poke fun at sacred icons. This book reinforces everything I love about Robbin's writings - and reminds me why critics seem to dislike him so much.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe Robbins' weakest effort? 17 Jun 2003
By A Customer - Published on
I've read every Tom Robbins book (some multiple times), and I was thrilled to see this book released so quickly after "Fierce Invalids", but unfortunatley, I was kind of disappointed.
The first 100 pages or so, are just great - but the second half of the book kind of lays an egg in my opinion. I believe the reason this happens is because when one of the major characters - Mars Albert Stubblefied - is introduced, my energy and enthusiasm left this story. This character is just not up to par with the many great characters of wisdom and charm as in his other books, and I feel the overall story suffers a bit for this reason. He is just not a very likeable character and is portrayed to be a smart/ground breaking thinker, but most of his views make little sense, and have even less relevance to the world - even in their defiance of normal society - and this is very 'odd' for Robbins, as most of his stories thrive off of argumentive energy - that is difficult to debate. Stubblefied's theories didn't even lead me to attentive thought to be honest - which is always my favorite part of Robbins' work.
That being said, it is still worth the read, because one always learns great things when reading Robbins, and the worlds that he creates conjure journeys that all people should take once in a while in their life to escape this world for a brief moment. I still consider him the best writer of our time.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "It is what it is" 22 Sep 2003
By M. Tenenbaum - Published on
To reiterate what many reviewers have written, if you have never read Tom Robbins before, please don't start with "Villa Incognito." If you are an established Robbins fan, please read it with an open mind.
My main qualm is that, in the absence of a central main character (who IS the protagonist anyway -- Dickie Goldwire? Tanuki Himself?), we get a great deal of the author's voice instead. In fact, the book comes across as a thinly-veiled excuse for Tom Robbins to expound his political and philisophical views. Fortuntately, I happen to agree with many of said views, however I'm not sure that a novel is the appropriate vehicle for such a venture, and it at times verges on, well no, crosses over into preachiness, which often distracted me from the world of the story.
That being said, while I don't think this novel is quite up to the literary standards set by "Jitterbug Perfume" and others, I thoroughly enjoyed it once I accepted it for what it was -- among other things, an exploration of the relevance and pervasiveness of Myth in our modern age. Robbins' inspired prose continues to astound me (even if after nine novels, a few of his requisite metaphors come out a little forced), and I don't think I have yet to meet a Robbins character that I didn't want to know more about, although it must be said that the brevity of this novel does, with a few exceptions, leave you a bit dissatified where character development is concerned.
All in all, I feel extremely lucky to be around at a time when Tom Robbins is a living, working author and there is always the next wacky novel to look forward to.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Robbins Lite: Great Taste, Less Filling 23 July 2004
By D. Anderson - Published on
While I must confess that I'm no seasoned Tom Robbins reader, I did have the pleasure of savoring "Fierce Invalids" while on the first leg of a long trip to China. The delectable aftertaste of that absolutely splendid literary romp drove me to Robbins again at the bookstore last week; I chose "Villa Incognito" simply because the back cover description sounded intriguing. The clerk, a T.R. fan himself, sighed when he saw my selection. "It's hardly even a whole novel," he said, and encouraged me to read, oh, pretty much any other Robbins instead.

Maybe I should have listened, and picked up "Still Life" or "Half Asleep." I might not have learned what a tanuki is (nor about their rather titillating "assets"), and perhaps I would never have been enlightened as to the four different ethnic groups in Lao society. But I would probably have spent my vacation reading something that left a discernable impression on me, the way "Fierce Invalids" did.

Looking through the other reviews here, I find that the bookstore clerk and I are not alone in wondering whether Robbins' excellent storytelling abilities sputtered to a halt on this one. Although the majority of the plot takes place in Southeast Asia, there is the occasional American interlude - but the American characters and events are so poorly interwoven into the main story that their recurrence every twenty pages or so is as jarring as an acid flashback. Any real identification with the main characters, or any shared involvement by the reader in the events taking place, is in this case hindered by Robbins penchant for espousing obscure philosophies via his verbose protagonists. (In "Fierce Invalids," I found this an endearing method of developing a personal credo for the story's hero; here, it merely comes across as Robbins rather crudely inserting himself into the very story he is creating.) Finally, the novella (for I think it is most accurately termed as such) has an ending so abruptly and inappropriately placed that even Robbins himself apparently found not one, but TWO epilogues necessary. While they *were* enough to keep me from screeching with outrage and flinging the book across the room, they surely *weren't* enough to prevent me from merely dropping it to the floor and falling asleep - hardly an enthusiastic response, I'd say.

The book is not without its merits, of course. Robbins' unforgettable and unexampled descriptive gifts are on full display here, with metaphors and turns of phrase that stick with you for a surprisingly long time. Furthermore, they're to be found on nearly every page: a random page-flipping yields "an ice cream parlor on Main Street in Hell," "something the proverbial cat *refused* to drag in," and "its mask of lipstick democracy and mascara faith." Similarly, the author bravely straddles genres and stitches together folktale with biography, history with political polemic, creating a patchwork tale that, while hardly seamless, can certainly carry the entertained reader from lecherous Japanese animal ancestors to circus clowns in Seattle without derailing. Robbins' gift for language, and for sheer imaginative thinking, is definitely on a roll here - which is why I've bumped up to 3 stars a book which in any other author's hands would surely have merited no more than two.

Unfortunately, however, this patchwork tale is full of holes, and while I was indeed entertained I simply was not engaged - a disappointment from an author I *know* has the capacity to engage his readers. Robbins' ability to provide the reader with a complete and satisfying story seems to have decoupled from his other significant gifts. While it may be anathema to say this on Amazon, if you want to read "Villa Incognito" I recommend borrowing it from your local library or from a friend. If you want to read Tom Robbins, on the other hand, start with "Fierce Invalids" and proceed to "Half Asleep" or "Still Life," which are recommended as better alternatives by both the reviewers on this site and the bookstore clerk to whom I should have listened. While I won't say I regret reading "Villa Incognito," I most certainly regret the $15 I spent on what was, in effect, half of a good Tom Robbins novel.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ?!? Where's the rest of it, Tom? 28 May 2003
By Jarrod Blasius - Published on
Tom Robbins' books are almost always the literary equivalent of a sprawling, sumptuous buffet-style feast representing the finest cuisine of some wonderfully exotic and mysterious place, daring you to run from one end of the table snarfing and snacking on some of this, some of that, until you're sated to the point of nirvanic bliss and unsure if you can get through the door of experience. Even his poorest work is infinitely better than most authors' best. Through seven novels, written throughout the course of my existence on this planet, T.R. has never failed to lay out an impressive table, generous with his wit and philosophy like enormous crocks of Brazilian baked beans and steaming Tibetan Peach Pie (ice cream softening nearby). This time, however, the picnic, while no less enjoyable, is lacking some substance.
The image from Villa Incognito I think most characterizes the novel best is the plain mayonnaise sandwich - not much there but what is there makes you feel like a kid again, like the first time you read a Robbins novel. But the meat is missing, the goofy meandering is far too brief and a whole subplot or two seem to have been forgotten, leaving clueless characters with nothing to do but spout their dizzy quirks at each other. This goes a long way to explaining why the novel is so short: half the story is missing. It's the part of the story that has nothing to do with what the part that is there is about, dealing with Bootsie and Pru in Seattle, and that interesting lesbian clown Bardo Bippie Bop, who for some reason only appears twice and very briefly in the course of the narrative.
Speaking as a T.R. fan, I could have waited another couple of years for him to flesh out the story more. I'm used to the five year gap; when you have to wait a long time, it usually means when it comes, it'll be worth the wait.
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