Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas

Book in Focus
This edition published by Bantam Books (1994). Hardcover, 386 pages

There are several things that set apart Tom Robbins’s book Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas from the rest of the pack. First, Robbins’s story is the result of his numerous interests, and the fact that he is able to create the links between them is a testament to his storytelling abilities. Its novel qualities come from the ambitious and far-reaching concepts it puts forth. Second, this book is a great illustration of Robbins’s writing skills since it is written in the second person and takes place over the course of just three days.

Some authors use the first-person (I or we) or third-person (she/he, they) pronouns while writing a narrative. Since the book is written in the second person and in the present tense, it totally immerses the reader in the main character’s experience. The story is arranged in such a manner that it seems to the reader like a grand journey into the realms of mysticism and economics.

The narrative occurs in the mid-1990s (when it was written), a time when the stock market saw a severe decline. Gwendolyn Mati is a young stockbroker with lofty ambitions and seemingly undeveloped common sense. We meet her at the beginning of a disastrous three-day weekend, when she loses everything after the market crashes on Friday night. Gwen’s ethically dubious dealings with her customers’ portfolios will be revealed on Monday as a consequence of the collapse, and she will likely be fired as a result.

Due to Robbins’s quirky writing style, Gwen is always referred to as “you” throughout the novel (second-person POV). You, as Gwendolyn, are a pretty 29-year-old stock trader from Settle with a mixed Filipino and Welsh heritage, which makes you somewhat complicated. Your real estate broker boyfriend, Belford, is contemplating a career change to social work. Belford saves André, the thieving monkey. You then meet the dubious Larry Diamond, whom you will be fond of come Sunday. Larry spends the weekend advising you on the stock market and detailing his retirement plan. Everyone spends the weekend looking for André after he escapes from Belford.

That essentially summarizes the plot, but Robbins incorporates some of his signature humor into a storyline that deals with serious world concerns like pollution, poverty, and disease. In Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, Robbins criticizes the corporate world and, more especially, stockbrokers, whose obsession with money hinders them from growing as people and realizing their full potential. During the course of the novel, you will be confronted with a wide range of topics, from the paranormal to African rites to mythical amphibians up to your own sexuality and beyond. After all, this is a book by Tom Robbins.

Memorable Quotes

The money. The lovely money. Q-Jo contends that it is your grasping for material wealth that has caused twenty-three gray hairs (she counted them) to sprout on your black Filipina crown—but you know it isn’t so: it is the Welsh blood from your mother’s side of the family that is to blame. Anyway, there is no grasping on your part, no vulgar greed. Rather, it is a biological drive. That’s right. Pushing thirty, you hear the clock ticking. Only it is not babies you want to make, it’s cash. You long to swell up with a pregnancy of moola and expel silver dollars like a slot machine.

Pages 16-17, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins

Why aren’t we as smart when we wake up as we are in our dreams?

Page 97, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins

The rains have returned. The runaway sky, as though connected by a bungee cord, has been yanked back to earth, where peaks are perforating its bladder and ridges are wringing out its glands. Your building is surrounded by the soft, the gray, and the moist, as if it is being digested by an oyster.

Page 114, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins

Virtually every candidate for public office in the past seventy years has campaigned with the rubber worm of “more jobs” dangling from his or her rusty hook, and the angler with the most lifelike worm snags the votes, even though all voters except the cerebrally paralyzed must recognize that there are going to be fewer and fewer jobs as time—and technology—progresses.

Page 196, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins

Further Reading

The Transcendent Wisdom of Amphibians by Rudy Rucker, The Washington Post

Putting Me to Sleep in Frog Pajamas by Door Country Pulse

IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS WITH: Tom Robbins; Perfect Sentences, Imperfect Universe by Timothy Egan, The New York Times

What Is Second-Person Point of View? by Ginny Wiehardt, LiveAbout

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