Tom Robbins

On this date in 1932, American novelist Thomas Eugene Robbins was born in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and grew up in Richmond, Virginia. Both of his grandfathers were preachers, but he did not listen to sermons “by choice.” “As a kid I was exposed to snake handlers, gypsies, moonshiners, and eccentric old men who were great storytellers,” he later reminisced (Seattle Times, June 9, 2014). He told National Public Radio that he began writing at age 5 (Aug. 28, 2010). He attended but did not graduate from college and spent three years in the Air Force, including a stint in Korea.

Upon discharge he studied at the Richmond Professional Institute (later Virginia Commonwealth University), where he became editor of the school newspaper and worked for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. After graduating with honors and pursuing a master’s, he moved to Seattle to attend the Far East Institute of the University of Washington, working as an art critic for the Seattle Times and hosting his own radio show at KRAB-FM.

His books include Another Roadside Attraction (1971), Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1977), Still Life with Woodpecker (1980), Jitterbug Perfume (1984), Skinny Legs and All (1991), Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas (1994), Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates (2000), Villa Incognito (2003), Wild Ducks Flying Backward (2005), B is for Beer (2009) and a memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie ( 2014). His novella B Is for Beer was the basis for the 2018 album “B Is for Beer: The Musical.” His awards include being named among the 100 best writers of the 20th century by Writer’s Digest.

A private individual whose views appear to be irreverent but deistic, he has made references to religion in his novels. A character, Stubblefield, from Villa Incognito, says, “Soul is not even that Crackerjack prize that God and Satan scuffle over after the worms have all licked our bones. That’s why, when we ponder — as sooner or later each of us must — exactly what we ought to be doing about our soul, religion is the wrong, if conventional, place to turn. Religion is little more than a transaction in which troubled people trade their souls for temporary and wholly illusionary psychological comfort — the old give-it-up-in-order-to-save-it routine.”

Robbins has been married several times and has three sons. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Alexa D’Avalon.

Public domain photo: Robbins at a 2005 San Francisco reading.

Freedom From Religion Foundation