“…veils of ignorance, disinformation, and illusion separate us from that which is imperative to our understanding of our evolutionary journey…The first of those veils conceals the repression of the Goddess, masks the sexual face of the planet…”
A redneck welder and his aspiring artist wife travel from Seattle to New York City in an Airstream motorhome shaped like a shiny silver turkey. As they motor toward New York, inanimate objects come to life and debate theology while stumbling and rolling in the wake of the turkey on wheels.
An Arab and a Jew operate a restaurant across the street from the United Nations while a fiery Southern Baptist orchestrates his vision of Armageddon.
And the veils fall away, one by one, exposing the hypocrisies of life until Salome dances the Dance of the Seven Veils and the hypocrisies become epiphanies.
All roads lead to Jerusalem in Tom Robbins' eclectic 1990 novel “Skinny legs and all.” Along the way Robbins dissects many of modern society's delicate issues. Lust and money, politics, marriage, art, race and religion are central themes as a young woman from suburban Richmond discovers the New York art scene while trying to grasp the meaning of sex and love and an understanding of the ever-present Arab-Israeli conflict.
While Robbins analyzes many human issues, religion is the focus. A former student of religion, Robbins has much to say on the subject. The fun part is how he says it. His religious views may be debatable to some people, but his descriptions are witty and intelligent.
“Religion was an attempt to pin down the Divine. The Divine was eternally in flux, forever moving, shifting shape…It had its god and goddess aspects, but it was ultimately no more male or female than it was star or screwdriver.”
Robbins proves he is the master of the metaphor describing landscapes, weather and mornings that “start like a fine German car.” A sunrise is portrayed as “The Chinese fingers of dawn, slender and opium stained, were massaging the bruised bottom of the sky…”
His writing has been described as “upbeat,” and “gloriously inventive,” but, boiled down, it's funny.
“Skinny legs and all,” with typical Robbins abandon, rolls with the sexual energy of newlyweds, the discordant thoughts and tribulations of a can of beans, the wisdom of an ancient stick, the genital mimicry of a conch shell and the timid emotions of a silver serving spoon. All are attempting, as is the young bride, to unravel the mysteries of religion and the reasons for strife in the Middle East, the complicated emotions of matrimony and the insanity of Armageddon.
In the process they meet a man who spends his days (except Wednesday) in front of a New York cathedral turning around, a snooty art dealer, a Baptist preacher with an eye on Jerusalem and the Arab and Jew who, when not working at the restaurant that is their experiment on cooperation, spend their days discussing religion and playing tennis.
Robbins' writing uncomplicates the complicated in a non-sensible story that makes perfect sense. All of this with a speed and fury that has the reader canceling appointments and searching for a seatbelt until the dance is over and the veils have drifted away like young lovers destined for separate lives.
Those who have read Robbins previous novels, including “Jitterbug Perfume,” “Another Roadside Attraction” and “Even Cowgirls get the Blues” are used to the blinding pace of his stories.
To describe “Skinny legs and all” as a pageturner does it a disservice—it is one of those rare works that demands time and absorbs energy like a glacier absorbs snow.
And as the last veil rolls through the air and finally succumbs to gravity, humanity's masks flutter along and land silently and become one with the veil.