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Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (novel)

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Publication date  1976
ISBN  0-395-24305-X
Originally published  1976
Publisher  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
3.7/5 Goodreads

Language  English
Pages  365 pp
OCLC  1993290
Author  Tom Robbins
Country  United States of America
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (novel) t0gstaticcomimagesqtbnANd9GcQVRpIlJvxOLElFL
Media type  Print (hardback & paperback)
Adaptations  Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993)
Genres  Fiction, Novel, Speculative fiction
Similar  Tom Robbins books, Novels

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is a 1976 novel by Tom Robbins.


Plot summary

Sissy Hankshaw, the novel's protagonist, is a woman born with enormously large thumbs who considers her mutation a gift. The novel covers various topics, including free love, drug use, birds, political rebellion, animal rights, body odor, religion, and yams.

Sissy capitalizes on the size of her thumbs by becoming a hitchhiker and subsequently travels to New York, United States (U.S.). The character becomes a model for The Countess, a male homosexual tycoon of feminine hygiene products. The Tycoon introduces Sissy to a staid Mohawk named Julian Gitche, whom she later marries. In her later travels, she encounters, among many others, a sexually open cowgirl named Bonanza Jellybean and an itinerant escapee from a Japanese internment camp happily mislabeled The Chink. The Chink is presented as a hermetic mystic and, at one point. writes on a cave wall, "I believe in everything; nothing is sacred. I believe in nothing; everything is sacred." and frequently says "Ha Ha Ho Ho and Hee Hee." A flock of whooping cranes also makes frequent appearances throughout the novel, which includes details of their physical characteristics and migratory patterns. Robbins also inserts himself into the novel (as a character).

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The novel was made into a 1993 film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, Pat Morita, Angie Dickinson, Keanu Reeves, John Hurt, Rain Phoenix, Ed Begley, Jr., Carol Kane, Victoria Williams, Sean Young, Crispin Glover, Roseanne Arnold, Buck Henry, Grace Zabriskie, and Treva Jeffryes. Robbins himself was the narrator.

Literary significance and criticism

"Cowgirls ..." has been considered by Gus Van Sant to be a 'hippy' novel. Robbins writes short chapters filled with philosophical asides and quips (such as noting that because amoebae reproduce by binary fission, the first amoeba is still alive), often speaking to the reader (chapter 88 begins with the narrator noting that the book now has as many chapters as a piano has keys).


  • John Cale, formerly of The Velvet Underground, named a song and album after the novel.
  • The band Nightmare of You based the song "Thumbelina" on the book.
  • The band The Gaslight Anthem titled a song on their album The '59 Sound after the novel.
  • Rodney Crowell named a song after the novel that was recorded by Emmylou Harris on her Blue Kentucky Girl album.
  • James Lee Stanley released an album of the same name, intended as a soundtrack to the novel.
  • Development history

    The novel was originally to be published by Doubleday as they had right-of-first-refusal to Robbins's second book. However Robbins terminated his contract with Doubleday for a better offer from editor Ted Solotaroff and Bantam Books. Bantam was mass-paperback publisher, and they auctioned the rights for hardcover to Houghton Mifflin.

    Partial publication history

    Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was first published in 1976 by Houghton Mifflin. It was concurrently released as both a hardcover and trade paperback novel. It was later released as a mass-market paperback by Bantam Books.

  • First hardcover edition: ISBN 0-395-24305-X, Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
  • First trade paperback edition: ISBN 0-395-24510-9, Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
  • First mass-market paperback edition Bantam Books, 1977. Reissued in 1990 with ISBN 978-0-553-34949-8
  • References

    Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (novel) Wikipedia