‘Even Cowgirls Get the Blues’: My favorite passages from the 1976 Tom Robbins novel on individuality

Individuality is a heavy load is among the largest themes of the 1976 Tom Robbins novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues that I recently finished.

Last year, I read and loved Robbins’ book ‘Still Life with Woodpecker,’ but I think I liked this even more.

Some notes below:

  • “The thumb is the cornerstone of civilization! You are an ignorant schoolgirl. You think civilization is a good thing.” (P. 13)
  • The song “love is a many splendored thing” was not composed in South Richmond. There have been cans of dog food more splendiferous in South Richmond. Landmines more tender. South Richmond was settled by a race of thin, bony – faced psychopaths. They would sell you anything they had, which was nothing, and kill you over anything they didn’t understand, which was everything.” (p. 16)
  • Paul Gauguin: “The ugly may be beautiful, but the pretty, never.” (p. 21)
  • The brain is biased in calling itself most powerful part or body (23)
  • And earlier Richmond Virginia: “it is not a city at all but the world’s largest Confederate museum ” (30)
  • “Sissy is the only one that came out of that day okay; nothing happened to her because she just kept moving. ” (33)
  • The public defender was using those terms “in corrigible, “”Wayward, “”curfew breaker” and “beyond parental control, “that, when applied to a young girl, means simply “she sucks. “As late as 1960, the large majority of juvenile females behind bars were there because they had acquired an early taste for sexual intercourse. (40)
  • Mr. Hankshaw was a working man, after all, and in his breast, as in the breast of workingmen everywhere, there beats the fatty heart of a profiteer.  (could Marxist stethoscopes be so universally faulty? Do all socialist heart specialists have them come in their gears?) (42)
  • “The Countess had a smile like the first scratch on a new car. It was immanently regrettable. It was a spoiler. It was a stinging a little reminder of the inevitability of deterioration. ” (57)
  • “She has the eyes of a poetess, the nose of an aristocrat, the chin of a noblewoman and the mouth of a suck artist in a Tijuana pony show” (58)
  • Freaks as gifts (79, bottom)
  • “Women are tough and rather coarse. They were built for the raw, crude work of bearing children. You’d be amazed at what they can do when they divert that baby-hatching energy into some other enterprise. ” (80)
  • They seemed the best part of her  (100)
  • This sentence may be pregnant, it missed its period  (108)
  • “The trouble with seagulls is that they don’t know whether they are cats or dogs. Their cry is exactly midway between a bark and the meow. ” begins a great Dakota description (108)
  • “The old woman held Indian summer in her lap like a cat.” (111)
  • “New York City keeps its allotment of sunshine in a Swiss bank account and tries to get by on the interest, which is compounded quarterly. ” (128)
  • “Heaven is living in your hopes and hell is living in your fears. It’s up to each individual which one he chooses.” (129)
  • “Politics is for people who have a passion for changing life but lack a passion for living life.” (133)
  • “..Buddha and Christ were second rate heroes…the greatest men that ever live pass away unknown (143)
  • “…all of civilization was a dike thrown up by men to hold back sexual competition…” (153)
  • “Because they were designed to suckle both male and female children at their breasts, women are not as sexually restrictive as men. ” (154)
  • “Difficulties illuminate existence, but they must be fresh and of high quality. ” (159)
  • “Nature must govern technology, not the other way around. (177)
  • “The Chink picked up English and other bad habits. He went to high school and other dangerous places. He earned
  • American citizenship and other dubious distinctions. ” (179)
  • He’s telling not showing about clock works 189
  • “There are many things worth living for, there are a few things worth dying for, but there’s nothing worth killing for” (197)
  • In times of widespread chaos and confusion, it has been the duty of more advanced human beings-artists, scientists, clowns and philosophers-to create order. In times such as ours, however, when there’s too much order, too much management, too much programming in control, it becomes the duty of superior men and women to fling their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery. (201)
  • “History is always ending and always not ending, and both ways there’s nothing to wait for.” (201)
  • 202-203 is a killer passage on time
  • Christianity was an eastern religion, resulting in the “spiritual impoverishment” of the west  (231)
  • Nature creates in circles and moves in circles…civilization is a circle squared (305) [great passage on civilized world]
  • Like political candidates, they frequently switched positions (328)
  • Mans primary problems aren’t political, they’re philosophical (332)
  • “Maybe the human animal has contributed really nothing to the universe but kissing and comedy — but by God that’s plenty.” (340)
  • That creature that is simultaneously the most dangerous and most pitiful thing on earth: scared old man with a title. (340)
  • When Life demands more of people than they demand of life… (344)

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