Friday, May 21, 2010

B Is For Beer / by Tom Robbins

It all started the day 5-year-old Gracie Perkel asked, "Daddy, can I please taste your beer?". When her father (watching his favorite team lose yet another game) abruptly dismisses her request, Gracie is introduced to beer by her Uncle Moe, a man secretly labeled as the family "nut job" by her parents, but whom Gracie has always found wonderfully entertaining. Beer, Moe elaborates, combines hops, yeast, grain and water to produce an "elixir so gassy with blue-collar cheer, so regal with glints of gold, so titillating with potential mischief . . . that it seizes the soul and thrusts it toward that ethereal plateau where all human whimsies float and merge.". Dazzled by her uncle's uniquely charming description and seemingly endless knowledge on the subject of his most favorite beverage, Gracie learns all she can from him, even boldly sharing her knowledge the next day in Sunday school (to the shock and chagrin of the teacher). Soon afterwards, Gracie decides to find out for herself the secret behind the drink her uncle fondly refers to as "hair of the dog", ultimately discovering a new and different world she never could've expected.
Robbins, noted humorist and author of Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, has crafted a clever little novel colorfully dubbed "a children's book for grown-ups" and "a grown-up book for children". Like the drink it lovingly characterizes, the book is brewed with just the right combination of childlike wonderment and adult satiric humor. The physical book is even bound in an appropriately "aged" package--the thick covering featuring a cartoonish beer mug resembling something from a grade schooler's reading choice while the interior is typeset exactly as books intended for that level generally are. The writing itself will remind readers of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, preserving the innocence of a child's world within a contemporary, somewhat serious atmosphere as it fancifully illuminates a particular aspect of the exclusive adult-world from a "minor's" point-of-view.

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