Oh, Tom, oh poor, Tom, where have you gone? Where is that person who manipulated the English language like no one else ever had? Where is the Tom of the big thumb and the skinny legs and the frog pajamas? Not here, nowhere on these pages, and that's a certainty.
Robbins' new one, which is supposed to have been "a children's book for grown-ups" and "a grown-up book for children," is neither. It panders to both camps in such embarrassing extremes that it ends up as some diluted clump of pages that will delight no one.
From the first chapter, the prose here is so forced and un-Robbins-like that it actually sounds like a different writer.
"Have you ever wondered why your daddy likes beer so much? Have you wondered, before you fall asleep at night, why he sometimes acts kind of 'funny' after he's been drinking beer? Maybe you've even wondered where beer comes from, because your'e pretty sure it isn't from a cow. Well, Gracie Perkel wondered those same things."
What is that? That is the worst intro to a children's book anyone could have written. Compare that to the opening lines from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues:
"Amoebae leave no fossils. They haven't any bones. (No teeth, no belt buckles, no wedding rings.) It is impossible, therefore to determine how long amoebae have been on Earth."
That is an opening paragraph. There is a fairy tale waiting to unfold. There is a story meant to grab anyone from nine to 90. That was Tom Robbins in a different life. He hasn't written anything that beautiful in years; his last several books have been total losers and not worthy of his name.
The story reads like a bad soap opera: The history of how beer is made interspersed with chapters on divorce, potential violence against women as perpetrated by drunk men, cheating husbands, and consumption of alcohol by a minor,
all told in a faux-fairytale fashion meant to enlighten and entertain.
B Is for Beer clocks in at barely over 100 pages. Presumably, Robbins couldn't muster up enough of the good words to write more. If anyone said that, one day, the man who wrote
Still Life With Woodpecker would write this garbage, they'd be laughed and jeered at. But it is true, and now one of the most gifted writers in the world has come to publish this horrible thing.
No tree should have died for this.