It is with pleasure I write to you of Mr. Robbins’ original compelling book. “These Precious Days”. It has been my honor to be witness to its development and conclusion.
First and foremost, his distinctive expository style grabs one’s attention from the outset. Terse, bare-bones and powerful, his voice rings with the authenticity of native experience combined with seasoned compassion. This is his world sung in the clipped jargon so distinctive to the region, an intimate and outrageous journal of a man stitched to his heritage but standing observer to the wholly unavoidable cycles of his lifetime. The author has stripped his soul to its basic components, allowing the reader to slip insides his skin, peering out through his heart’s eyes.
The No Sweat quotes and comments that lead into each entry are simply marvelous. I laughed. I cried. I shook my head in amazement. His use of family dynamics as background is superlative, richly confided with no apology. Mr. Robbins’ philosophy of life and its mysterious interweaving are encapsulated with such lavish cynicism and wry wit that I savored them like a fine appetizer to the main course. Pithy and acerbic they sway to the genre of poetic essay and social commentary in the infamous style of Mark Twain, yet expose a warm nature and generous spirit unmarred by aberrant events.
His characterizations are superb, particularly the hilarious nicknames that summate these unique personalities with a decisive zing. These are people struggling on the bottom strata of the local social order, belly-crawling at times, but with a ferocious dignity. It is the story of survival at its basest levels, not just a meager getting-by, but outwitting the system using its own indignities and absurdities to mock it, provoke it and occasionally defeat it while living on the wicked edges of morality and legality. His actors are not elaborate analyses; rather they blithely hint at folks whose coping skills are jungle-acquired, whose adaptations are made to bizarre, unforeseeable twists of fate. Each player possess several faceted attributes of the composite complexity of the author, and when taken as a totality produces an intriguing, fully-developed profile of the Eastern Kentucky good-ole-boy persona; a marijuana grower/pigeon breeder/deep-sea diver, law-defying and touchingly poignant, a devoted family man and loyal friend marrow-deep.
Perhaps the standout feature of this novel is its extraordinary dialogue. Mr. Robbins is a master of this deceivingly difficult aspect, with his dialect hot-n-spicy and stropped razor sharp. His ability to convey the symbolic meta-meaning with brutal (often monosyllabic) brevity is beyond remarkable. To say it is evocative is an understatement. With practiced expertise he sets each scene with the somewhat anticlimactic off-handedness of just-another-day-down-home, only to render the reader surprised, and often shocked, at the outcome. The verbal punch is delivered with a visceral banter that says as much between the lines as outright. His ‘Black Hole’ is heart-wrenchingly relevant in scope and one of the finest psychological sketches I have seen in popular print. Their repartee brims with mutual admiration and a terrible, doomed camaraderie.
Mr. Robbins has painted a portrait of a man caught in the web of his times, a victim turned survivor, a player in the eponymous reality show of hand-to-mouth grubbing and a victor who has circumvented conventionality and apparent destiny to become a psychical congregate of paradoxical array. More than just being entertained, I learned from this book and felt immersed in it singular culture, as though I had spent years exploring his world. It has the distinguishing earmarks of a masterpiece – vibrant plot, memorable characters, bucolic setting, with the personal touch of the sensitive diarist. He is an intuitive and imaginative author par excellence.
I give this new work by Mr. Robbins my highest recommendation, both as a licensed therapist and voracious reader. I look forward to seeing future offerings by this exciting new author. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss its merits.
Sara L. Griffith, LMFT
Eagle River, Alaska
May 1, 2007