Social Concerns / Themes
As he does in Another Roadside Attraction (1971) and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976), Robbins chronicles the failure of western society to live in harmony and peace with itself. He believes modern Western culture, particularly as it is represented in Christian fundamentalism, is responsible for much human unhappiness and social discord. According to Robbins, modern man has been deceived by a culture that has impaired his spiritual vision. To illustrate his position, Robbins uses the Middle Eastern Dance of the Seven Veils as a means to present seven illusions which keep the naked facts of life from our eyes. As the veils drop in the course of the dance, Robbins reveals his philosophical position: that through ignorance or dissembling our purpose in life is hidden; that we do not have dominion over plants, animals, and inanimate objects; that political expediency is often advertised as virtue; that organized religion diminishes rather than enhances our spiritual life; that valuing money clouds our minds as much as valuing organized religion; that living as if only the afterlife were important keeps us from fulfillment in the here and now; and that every individual is responsible for his or her spiritual growth.
Robbins believes that the cure for the diseased Western cultural system is a return to earlier and healthier feminine principles, like the veneration of Astarte, the pre-Christian goddess of fertility once worshipped across the Middle East. Additionally, he suggests that much of the political discord in the Middle East is a result of the various groups — whether Jews, Arabs, or Christians — losing touch with the older religious system they once shared. Cultural veils lead us to prefer dry spirit in place of fertile soul, the easy power of money in place of the mysterious creative power of magic which produces art.
Overlaying Robbins's social concerns is a tale of two artists who attempt to come to terms with art and each other. Skinny Legs and All develops the relationship between beautiful painter Ellen Cherry Charles and lame welder Boomer Petway, a twentieth-century romance between Venus and Vulcan.
This love story connects the political, class, religious, and artistic themes of the novel.