It’s difficult not to like a book that begins “It has been reported that Tanuki fell from the sky using his scrotum as a parachute.” Tom Robbins has a habit of saying plainly ridiculous things, and then spending a lot of time explaining to you why they are plausible, whether this is a person with a pyramid-shaped head or a parachuting tankuki. Villa Incognita, which I picked up for the flight to NY, is no different in this regard, but it sounds a bit like something your great-unkle–an excellent story teller on most days–tosses off to placate you because he’s had a long day and wants to go to bed. The plot is mechanical, there is little to draw you in. It’s a book that is not hard to put down. It seems, especially in comparison to some of Robbins’s other efforts, to lack any sort of continuing tension.
It’s not a bad book. There is no doubt that Robbins can turn a phrase, and you feel after reading this that you’ve just spent a few hours with him over some drinks. But in the long run, the book feels like someone trying to write like Robbins: clown loving seattlite sisters, MIAs waxing religious in Laos, and a circus to make the global ties; throw them in a blender and spin the connections.