Robbins divides his novel in 121 short sections which contain an assortment of jokes, puns, metaphors, and word play, designed to amuse the reader on each page. His ability as a humorist is widely acknowledged. The novel itself is picaresque, Sissy and the whooping cranes serving as the greatest exponents of the freedom of movement Robbins professes. At the end of the novel, Robbins presents a special bonus parable in which Confucius, Buddha, and Christ fail to find sweetness in a jar of vinegar, the emblem of life, but Pan and his fertile woman accomplice find sweetness — offering a final clear example of the failure of both eastern and western religion to bring mankind happiness.
Robbins has repeatedly been described as a counterculture novelist, connecting him, at least in the minds of some critics, with Richard Brautigan, author of A Confederage General from Big Sur (1964), Trout Fishing in America (1967), and In Watermelon Sugar (1968). Like Brautigan, Robbins is a West Coast writer, and like him, Robbins is critical of the commercialism of American society. Both Robbins and Brautigan find spiritual direction outside of Christianity, Robbins in neo-paganism and Brautigan in Zen Buddhism. Ultimately, however, these two authors differ in orientation. Brautigan, in Trout Fishing in America reveals what he sees as the phony optimism of the American Dream; Robbins, on the other hand, rejects contemporary Amerian society as sick, but suggests a realignment of values as a cure.
(The entire section is 525 words.)