by Tom Robbins
What’s it about: Beets, immortality and the god Pan (that’s about as best as I can make it for you).
Why should you read it: Because it’s wacky fun and a great read from its opening paean on the humble beet to the secrets of perfumers and Bohemian kings, this is a madcap, but substantial and thoroughly enjoyable experience. I recall reading a whole chunk of this book in the bookstore and being so enthralled I bought it and finished it in a marathon reading within a few days.
The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip . . .
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin's favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.
In Europe there is grown widely a large beet they call the mangel-wurzel. Perhaps it is mangel-wurzel that we see in Rasputin. Certainly there is mangel-wurzel in the music of Wagner, although it is another composer whose name begins, B-e-e-t—.
Of course, there are white beets, beets that ooze sugar water instead of blood, but it is the red beet with which we are concerned; the variety that blushes and swells like a hemorrhoid, a hemorrhoid for which there is no cure. (Actually, there is one remedy: commission a potter to make you a ceramic a$$%@#&—and when you aren't sitting on it, you can use it as a bowl for borscht.)
An old Ukranian proverb warns, "A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil."
That is a risk we have to take.”