Picks and Pans Review: Villa Incognito

updated 05/19/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/19/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Tom Robbins

Robbins, as lyrical a counterculture hero as has ever tuned in and turned on, is to words what Uri Geller is to spoons: He bends sentences into playful escapades. Now 66, Robbins (Still Life with Woodpecker, Another Roadside Attraction) is as frisky as ever. His eighth novel, set in Asia, is a folkloric romp about Tanuki, a hedonistic Japanese creature resembling a badger, who loves sex and sake. The dizzy plot leaps to the tale of three American MIAs who chose to stay in Laos after the Vietnam War ended. They meet a female circus trainer who may be a descendant of Tanuki's via an interspecies fling. Is Robbins making a statement about our inability to change our core selves? Probably, but when the writing is this lively—even mayonnaise is as "yellow as summer sunlight, soft as young thighs, smooth as a Baptist preacher's rant"—who needs deeper meaning? (Bantam, $24)

BOTTOM LINE: Another bedside attraction

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