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B is for Beer by Tom Robbins

July 14, 2010

When I pick up a Tom Robbins book, I know I am in for a good read: entertaining and thought-provoking. When I learned he wrote “A Children’s Book for Grown-ups,” or, “A Grown-up Book for Children,” I was pumped. Well, why?
It’s about beer! B is for Beer features one of my favorite Earthly pleasures as its subject. Like a disarmingly light hoppy brew, this book is best enjoyed on a warm sunny day, under a shady tree. (Which is exactly how I enjoyed most of it.)

This is a brief, breezy book, so all I’m offering is a brief, breezy review. If you haven’t read Robbins before, let me tell ya: the guy has a way with prose (pleasing, but not too flowery) and humor (definitely funny). B is for Beer excels in both: “Do you know about drizzle, that thin, soft rain that could be mistaken for a mean case of witch measles? Seattle is the world headquarters of drizzle, and in autumn it leaves a damp gray rash on everything, as though the city were a baby that had been left too long in a wet diaper and then rolled in newspaper” (11). Oh, LOLZ. I laughed aloud sitting in under that tree in the park, all by myself. So, what’s this book about, KK, besides beer?

It’s about what beer does to a person. (Particularly, an inquisitive five-year-old girl named Gracie Perkel.) It’s about how to be a parent. (Dad? Not so good. Uncle Moe? He rocks.) It’s about how beer is made. (Science!) It’s about what makes us drunk. (Beer Fairy!?) Like I said, it’s a breezy read, and worth it for the humor alone. Another plus is its protagonist, Gracie. Dudes! This book follows a five-year-old girl around as she learns how the world works. It doesn’t talk down to her; in fact, it reminds us to take kids seriously. Remember that they are learning and trying not to feel humiliated while doing so. It’s a reminder that we all could use (its not limited only to children), but enough said: you don’t want me going on some “give everyone a chance,” “peace and love, man,” rant.

For these reasons, I recommend reading this book as an adult. Would you seriously read this to a kid? I would. Why not? Kids gotta learn how beer works sometime. Sure, it’ll make you feel happy and dizzy for a while, but before you know it, you’re sitting outside of a neighborhood cafe dressed as a zombie and dry heaving the morning after.
There are little mini-lessons here and there (c’mon, every book is didactic in some way) that little Rosie could stand to learn; some things more sophisticated than “Don’t poop in the bathtub.” Take, for example, chapter 17, where the Beer Fairy explains “that matters are very seldom all black or all white. They can even be both at the same time” (106). Oh, wait! That isn’t a lesson just for children, either! Damnit, Robbins, you trickster—trying to teach children and adults alike the value of tolerance, acceptance and patience, all under the guise of how beer is made.

Recommendation: It’s a good summer read for adults and children. I totally buy into that.


Next up: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Robbins. I know, I said I was going to read Bunny Munro by Nick Cave next, but then my friend suggested we read some Tom Robbins together. The local bookstore didn’t have a copy of Cowgirls for him, so he bought B is for Beer to give me a quick Robbins fix. Now that we’re both in possession of Cowgirls, though, I’ll read it and review it. The review itself will probably be annoying and esoteric, though, because I’ll steal said friend’s good ideas. Just a warning.

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