January 16, 1995 12:00 PM

by Tom Robbins

In his fifth book since Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976), Tom Robbins continues to pour water on a dozing America. It is the economy that takes the worst soaking. The New York Stock Exchange has just crashed 900 points, and 29-year-old stockbroker Gwendolyn Mati is having the worst day of her life. Not only is she scrambling to save her career, but her best friend, Q-Jo, a 300-pound psychic whose services are needed more than ever, has vanished.

Desperate to find her, Gwendolyn tracks down Larry Diamond, the last person to see her alive. Diamond, who was once a broker himself, gave up on the material world after the crash of ’87. He now lives beneath a bowling alley, dresses like a grunge rocker and is searching for meaning in the slow extinction of frogs. Gwendolyn is at first repulsed by him, but he is stubbornly attracted to her. “You’re like a handsome, expensive television set,” he says, “that can only bring in two or three channels. I want to hook you up to cable, sweetheart, I want to be your satellite dish.”

As they fiddle with the reception, however, channels keep changing, and Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas becomes a novel of wildly disparate ideas. Between Diamond’s lectures about aboriginal tribes in Africa, extraterrestrials and Sirius the Dog Star, Robbins takes time to consider bed mites and the Seattle rain—as if being unusual and eclectic for its own sake is reason enough.

Yet for all its absurdity, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas is bright with Robbins’s customary verbal pyrotechnics. The author is one of the most inventive stylists writing today. If the bane of life is, as Diamond points out, an inability to perceive an “underlying kaleidoscopic density,” Robbins is happy to point it out at every turn. The patterns may be confusing, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Sometimes, it seems, just noticing them is enough. (Bantam, $23.95)

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