The Prologue That Isn’t

Prologue is a dirty word – a swear word – to many agents and editors. It will doom your story to the same trash bin as opening with a dream or a mirror image description. But a prologue that is not a prologue presents a way around this dilemma. Tom Robbins, a master storyteller, demonstrates this in Jitterbug Perfume. He doesn’t call his a prologue he calls it:

Today’s Special

It begins:

“THE BEET IS THE MOST INTENSE of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

Robbins continues to describe the attributes of the beet—both red and white—and ends with:

“An old Ukrainian proverb warns, ‘A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.’

That is a risk we have to take.”

– Tom Robbins Jitterbug Perfume

(For the whole Today’s Special, Google Books lets you read the first pages of Jitterbug Perfume.)

Now in the middle of his non-prologue, Robbins did start talking about hemorrhoids and I took a step back. I have given birth and hemorrhoids are not an image I want to remember.


It is wonderful introduction to The Beet which is integral to his whole story—beginning to end.

The beet is a main character. And that first sentence—THE BEET IS THE MOST INTENSE of vegetables—is what I believe Hemingway meant as a true sentence. The whole paragraph is brilliant writing and full of images. And Robbins did it with veggies.

What do you all think of Tom Robbin’s solution to the prologue dilemma?

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