Wild Ducks Flying Backward is Tom Robbins’ latest book. This anthology contains short stories and poems, reviews and essays written throughout Robbins’ career. Some of the material in this collection appeared previously in publications ranging from Esquire to Harper’s to Playboy to the New York Times. His introduction is a story in itself, describing the anticipation and culmination of opening your new Tom Robbins’ book for the first time. He describes the steps necessary to ensure privacy for this intimate encounter: finding the proper climate, the proper space and reminding us that “every halfway serious reader is perpetually subject to a form of coitus interruptus.” Those issues addressed, he continues to the heart of the matter:
Okay. At last you’re set. You prop up your feet (we should always read with our feet up, even on the subway or a bus) and retrieve the book, feeling in your hands the weight, the newness, the bookness of it. For a brief second you close your eyes, sip your libation, and allow yourself to wonder what Robbins is up to this time around. What strange lights on what distant mountainside have attracted his focus? Over whose campfire– gypsy? guerrilla? Girl Scout? shaman?– has he been toasting his ideas, his images, his figures of speech?
Curiosity suitably aroused, anticipation at a delicious pitch, you take a small breath and open the book and … Whoa! Wait a damn minute. Hold on. This isn’t the new Tom Robbins novel. Oh, it’s by Robbins alright, but … You look again at the cover. The Short Writings of … It’s printed right here on the jacket. Maybe it could have been in bigger type, but it isn’t as if you’ve been tricked. It’s your own fault and you should have paid closer attention. This will teach you to dash into a bookshop on your lunch hour. Wild Ducks Flying Backward is not a novel at all.
I have loved Tom Robbins’ work for over two decades when I first read Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. I fashioned my online nickname as a reverent reference to the mysterious man with a helmet of swarming bees in Robbins’ novel, Jitterbug Perfume. Robbins’ deteriorating eyesight reminds me just how great a treasure each new book, each new story must be.