A children’s book for grown-ups, B Is for Beer is Tom Robbins’ tribute to beer. Christian Toto of the Denver Post describes it as “social satire gussied up as children’s literature.” That description immediately alarms me; I have to wonder whether Toto has read anything else by Tom Robbins. The review goes on to suggest he’s at least familiar with Tom Robbins, but I’m not sure Toto quite gets Robbins. And that is, of course, part of the brilliance of Robbins as a writer. He’s surprising and whimsical and clever and poignant. Tom Robbins is one of my favorite authors.
Inspired by a cartoon in the New Yorker, Robbins novel is an ode to all things beer. When asked why an ode to beer, Robbins responded:
Why not? As ode fodder, its got to have at least as much potential as nightingales and Grecian urns. Beer is so universally beloved that 36 billion gallons of it are sold each year worldwide. It’s been popular for thousands of years. It has deep connections to the earth. Bittersweet, like much of life itself, it’s exceptionally thirst-quenching and enormously refreshing; it’s cheerful, accessible, affordable, lovely in color, and somewhat nourishing, being one of our few neutral foods: perfectly balanced between acidic and alkaline, between yin and yang. Best of all perhaps, beer makes us tipsy. What’s not to ode?
It is difficult to describe Tom Robbins novels in traditional terms — again, an element of his charm is wrapped in that challenge. Suffice it to say that B Is for Beer will illuminate and entertain. Whether you’re a child or a grump or even a woodpecker.