Friday, November 03, 2006

The Fabulous Mr. Robbins

The first book my partner bought me, back in the days when we were 'courting', was Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins.

I must admit, prior to this I had actually never heard of him. I had seen the film Even Cowgirls Get the Blues years and years ago, and loved it, but had no idea it was based on Mr. Robbins book of the same name. I have since become a fan of his work.

When my partner and I met, I was painting madly for my 2005 exhibition at Jackman Gallery, so it was some time after I received the book that I was able to sit down and familiarise myself with the world of Ellen Cherry Charles and co.

To me, it has been one of those books that you absolutely love whilst you are reading it, but you fall in love with it even more a week, a month, even a year after you've read it.

I certainly felt a particular empathy toward the main character, Ellen Cherry Charles, that I have never felt before with a fictional character. By the time I had finished reading it I had dog-eared so many pages that the book had gained extra girth. The very first page that I marked was page 6, and this is why:

'Mockingbirds are the true artists of the bird kingdom. Which is to say, although they're born with a song of their own, an innate riff that happens to be one of the most versatile of all ornithological expressions, mockingbirds aren't content to merely play the hand that is dealt them. Like all artists, they are out to rearrange reality. Innovative, willful, daring, not bound by the rules to which others may blindly adhere, the mockingbird collects snatches of birdsong from this tree and that field, appropriates them, places them in new and unexpected contexts, recreates the world from the world. For example, a mockingbird in South Carolina was heard to blend the songs of thirty-two different kinds of birds into a ten-minute performance, a virtuoso display that served no practical purpose, falling, therefore, into the realm of pure art.' - Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All

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