Still Life With Woodpecker is a zany romp of a novel that runs off on humorous tangents about lunar cycle offering the penultimate method of birth control, the mystery of the pyramids on the pack of camel cigarettes, the potential that red-heads are the spawn of a visiting alien race and the ability for dynamite to invigorate new life into dozing dullards. Robbins’ narrative style allows the author to interject his own perspective about the relationship of author to written work and the author with the object that allows him to create his written work as he proclaims in his opening line, “it this typewriter can’t do it, then fuck it, it can’t be done,” (1) and he carries this philosophy to the relativity of reader to written work “just as you, reader, have a relationship with this book as an object, no matter if you can tolerate another line of its content” (169). Ultimately this novel is a postmodern satire of a love story and great fun if the reader is willing to accept the weaknesses of character development as a lunar reflection of the ridiculousness of all love stories.
And what a ridiculous plot it is: the exiled Princess Leigh-Cheri from an obscure European country quickly falls in love with an outlaw explosives expert, nick-named the Woodpecker, to the point that she is willing to lock herself in her Seattle attic to share in his experience of solitary confinement for nearly 20 months. Her ease in changing the focus of her desires from Ralph Nader to the Woodpecker is forgivable when compared to the ridiculous actions of all who surround the princess, such as her mother’s poor English peppered with the phrase “Oh-oh-spaghetti-oh” and her 80 year old servant/aunt’s cocaine addiction. It is notable that the writing is peppered with overzealous preoccupation with femininity to the point that I’d call it chauvinistic, but in the continuing aura of this review, it is all forgivable because it is a fun romp of a book.
It seems that every single page is full of quotable sarcasm and self-reflecting jabs at philosophy, so I’ll only leave you with this quote that kind of sums up the reason why this book is worth reading:
“When the mystery of the connection goes, love goes. Its that simple. This suggests that it isn’t love that is so important to us but the mystery itself. The love connection may be merely a device to put us in contact with the mystery, and we long for love to last so that the ecstasy of being near the mystery will last.” (274)