It was my darling cousins Kirsten and Adrian who first foisted Tom Robbins books on my sister and me. I cannot remember which one I read first – possibly it was Jitterbug Perfume – but I know that I still have a couple on my bookshelf and it was … too too long ago for me to remember exactly. I have had these books for years now. I should probably return them.
Either way, Jitterbug Perfume’s tale of Alobar and Kudra’s passionate love affair and their quest for immortality intrigued me. When I think back on the book the mental image is humid and fragrant, richly coloured, and completely vague. I remember snippets, mental images of the randy goat-god Pan, of twisting smoke, of a New Orleans’ accent, small jewelled perfume bottles, and of mud.
What? They’re mental images. I can’t explain them. I don’t know where the mud or twisting smoke come from. But there they are.
Last night I tore my house apart (not really, I’m not much for heavy duty demolition) but I don’t seem to have a copy in my possession (horror!) and I know there are two knocking about in my family. I held the first copy ransom, my sister eventually purchasing me my own as a present, which I believe I then promptly lent out. To whom? I have no idea. This is very frustrating.
Either way, the Wikipedia entry reminded me of the prominence of beets, of the four distinct storylines, and of the Bandaloop Doctors. These things my mind has chosen to forget.
The themes ribbon-ing through Jitterbug Perfume include striving for immortality, the meaning behind the sense of smell, individual expression, self-reliance, sex, love, and religion.
But above all, it was one little sentence. A sentence which resonated with me, which I have remembered word for word from the moment I read and reread it, even read it out loud, was ultimately the one I chose to have inscribed across my back.
Uncertain, intrepid, possibly immortal, decidedly in love.
Jitterbug Perfume is not my favourite book (that would be Lolita, or Rebecca, or Middlesex), and Tom Robbins is not my favourite author (that would be Stephen Fry or Bill Bryson) but that sentence, those seven words, are my favourite.
I love the cadence, the rhythm, to me they are inestimably evocative. Truthfully, if it came down to lyrical quality and the beauty of words they come second to the first 5 paragraphs of Lolita, but that would be too too long for a tattoo.
It means more to me than a pure reverence of the written word. A favourite quote can be a highly personal thing, and while I hate to burden ink in skin with too much symbolism, I cannot avoid the fact that, to me, these words are a way of looking at life.
Be uncertain, be wary, but don’t let that hold you back. To fall upon a cushion of cliché, to feel the fear and do it anyway. Be intrepid. Embrace life as though you may be immortal, do everything but don’t rush through life. And most of all, be in love. With yourself, with life, with the small things, and the big. Robbins is referring to the passionate centuries long love affair of Alobar and Kudra, but I see it as so so so much more.
The font? I cannot remember. It is free, from dafont.com, and all I can say about it really is “Oo, pretty!”.
I chose the unusual spacing because I didn’t want any of the sentiment broken with the end of a line. And then, the second line was too short. Which is why I added the decoration.
And so my darling Jitterbug tattoo joins my others:
Careful Mum, you'll strain your eyes rolling them that hard.