infobox Book |
name = Jitterbug Perfume
image_caption = First edition cover
language = English
publisher = Bantam USA
release_date = 1984
media_type = Print (Hardback &
pages = 342 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = ISBN 0-553-05068-0 (first edition, hardback)
Jitterbug Perfume is
Tom Robbins' fourth novel, published in 1984. The major themes of the book include the striving for immortality, the meaning behind the sense of smell, individual expression, self-reliance, sex, love, and religion. Beetsand the god Pan figure prominently. The novel is a self-described "epic", with four distinct storylines, one set in 8th century Bohemiaand three others in modern day New Orleans, Seattle, and Paris.
A powerful and righteous
8th centuryking named Alobar narrowly escapes regicideat the hands of his own subjects, as it is their custom to kill the king at the first sight of aging. After fleeing, no longer a king but a simple peasant, he travels through Eurasia, and eventually meets the goat-god Pan, who is slowly losing his powers as the world turns toward Christianity. In India, he bumps into the adult incarnation of a child he used to know, Kudra, who goes on to become his wife. As with most of Robbins' couples, their mutual libido is enormous, and their love quite like something out of a fairy tale.
After an encounter with a mysterious group known as "The Bandaloop Doctors" Alobar is set down the path towards eternal life (which, according to Robbins, can be attained by a consistent ritual of controlled breath work, sex and bathing). Alobar and Kudra, successful in their immortality, prance about
Europeuntil the 18th Century, when they attempt a sort of new transcendental meditationand become separated into different astral planes.
Meanwhile, in present-day, a "genius waitress" named Priscilla struggles with a difficult job in a low-end Mexican restaurant. Priscilla is an amateur
perfumer, and is slowly going crazy trying to locate a base note for her new fragrance, something she believes will be almost magical, a fragrance she discovered in the gift of a thousand-year-old bottle. While dealing with this, she also juggles the unwanted advances of a lesbian co-worker, a brief affair with an eccentric millionaire obsessed with life extension, and a mysterious stranger who keeps delivering beets to her apartment.
In New Orleans, Priscilla's stepmother, the Madame Devalier, is a successful perfumer, and is also working on a fragrance of her own, intent on taking on the big companies of Paris. She also seeks something magical — the ultra-fragrant
jasminefrom a mysterious man with the helmet of swarming bees, Bingo Pajama.
Paris, the LeFever Parfumaire is concerned about their eccentric leader, Marcel, who equates smell as the most important factor in the forward movement of the evolutionary process. After witnessing an eclipse, he is obsessed with his own scent.
The story lines eventually converge into a climax in New Orleans, with a brief stop in another dimension.The main message is summarized in the cryptic "Erleichda", loosely translated as "lighten up".
Trivia|date=February 2008*In the somewhat esoteric final lines of the book, note this: "And then you'll be blue. Bluer than indigo." This is based on an old Chinese proverb by
Xun Zi: blue dye is made from indigocolored grass, yet the blue dye's color is much deeper than the color of its origin. In other words, the pupil can exceed the master.
* [http://www.aftrlife.com The Aftrlife: A Tom Robbins Playground]
Hardcover– ISBN 0-553-05068-0, published in 1984by Bantam Books
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