Nov 1, 2002
Title: Fierce Invalids Home From
Author: Tom Robbins
Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub
Fierce Invalids is a tale of international
intrigue'; a chapter in the life of Switters,
a rogue CIA agent confined to the physical
and potentially spiritual elevation of a
borrowed wheelchair by the curse of a reclusive
South American shaman.
Fierce Invalids is a journey towards spiritual
enlightenment, chronicling the rediscovery
of the third prophecy of Fatima and the
struggle make public it's startling revelation.
Fierce Invalids is a cautionary fable,
a portrait of a man torn between his growing
sensual obsession for a nun ten years his
senior and his lecherous desire to deflower
his 16 year old stepsister.
Fierce Invalids is all three of these stories,
braided together into a spiraling pigtail
of humour, revelation and sensuality. Add
to that a stolen Matisse nude and a talking
parrot whose mantra might well enlighten
the next generaton and you have classic
One doesn't really read a Tom Robbins novel,
rather one becomes mildly drunk with on
it. Not only do his tongue twisting turns
of phrase and protracted poetic pirouettes
make one intellectually wobbly-legged, but
his highly-implausible plot twists loosen
the necktie of realism so that the underlying
message can be revealed through the beer-goggles
of an aesopian fable.
The main character, Switters, floats between
the opposing desires that drive him. He
is a government agent with the notoriously
manipulative CIA, yet he works more to neutralize
their influence rather than impose it. He
has a deep sense of spirituality but eschews
any form of prayer or organized religion.
He is driven by a lust for innocence but
delights in an unconsumated realtionship
with a older woman. While these might be
considered failings by some, his ability
to remain neutrally centered is what allows
him to perservere.
This seems to be the main point of the
novel; that each of us has a similar conflict
within us, and the solution is not to embrace
either side but rather try to embrace both.
Human beings have a tendency to desire certainty,
which causes no end of problems in this
world of irreconcilable differences. We
fight wars to spread god's message of peace,
we put people to death for murder, we go
to MacDonalds and order salad.
By pursuing the certainties we hold dear,
more often than not we destroy them. Switters'
attraction to his stepsister's innocence
could ultimately destroy it just as the
revelation of Mary's devine prophecy could
render the church irrelevant.
Robbins sees both positive and negative
as inseperable; a yin-yang seesaw on which
we all ride, too many people on one end
and the ride's over. This is probably as
good an argument as you'll find against
prosthelytizing religions of any sort, be
they spiritual or secular.
I think he's right, we should all stop
taking ourselves so seriously.
As the parrot says: "People of zee