By Jesse Wood
Sept. 10, 2014. Today – Wednesday, Sept. 10 – is “Tom Robbins Day” in Blowing Rock.
A month ago, the Blowing Rock Town Council declared it so by adopting a resolution to honor the New York Times best-selling author. In addition to that, Appalachian State University Libraries has also declared this “Tom Robbins Week” with Robbins appearing at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday.
“Now, therefore, be it resolved, the citizens of Blowing Rock and the Blowing Rock Town Council wish to recognize Tom Robbins on this special day and extend their sincere congratulations on his many accomplishments,” the resolution adopted on Aug. 12 read.
Robbins, 82, is a native of Blowing Rock, born in the village on July 22, 1932, to George Thomas Robbins and Katherine Belle Robinson. His family moved to Virginia in 1942, and since then he hasn’t returned to the High Country until now. And with him, Robbins brings along a new book: Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life.
His works include:
- Another Roadside Attraction
- Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
- Still Life With Woodpecker
- Jitterbug Perfume
- Skinny Legs and All
- Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
- Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates
- Villa Incognito
- Wild Ducks Flying Backward
- B Is for Beer
Robbins has been dubbed a “writer’s writer” and one of the “100 Best Writers of the 20th Century” by Writer’s Digest. He has also received multiple lifetime achievement awards, including the 2012 Literary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Virginia.
While his novels have been described in Wikipedia as “seriocomedies often wildly poetic stories with a strong social and philosophical undercurrent, an irreverent bent, and scenes extrapolated from carefully researched bizarre facts,” his new book is – as the title suggests – nonfiction.
Here is a brief excerpt of Robbins roaming the High Country decades ago:
“Allowed to roam freely in both the streets and the woods, I observed and interacted not only with the wonders of nature but with an assortment of squirrel hunters, rabbit trappers, berry pickers, banjo pickers, moonshiners, tramps, real Gypsies, snake handlers, mule-back preachers (like my grandpa), eccentric characters with names such as Pink Baldwin and Junebug Tate, and perhaps most influential, bib-overalled raconteurs, many of whom spun stories as effortlessly and expertly as they spit tobacco juice.”
When Robbins was a young child, his parents moved to Waxhaw Virginia in 1942. He graduated from Hargrace Military Academy in Chatham, Va., in 1950; enrolled at Washington and Lee University; and then left to join the U.S. Air Force in 1953. He served a year in Korea and two years in the Special Weather Intelligence unit of the Strategic Air Command, according to biographical information in the adopted resolution.
Upon being discharged in 1957, he returned to Virginia and enrolled in Richmond Professional Institute, graduating with a degree in journalism in 1959. He worked as a copy editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch before moving to Seattle in 1962, where he sought a master’s degree at the Far East Institute of the University of Washington.
A father of three sons, Robbins still resides in the state of Washington, where he lives with his wife Alexa D’Avalon and their dog Blini Tomato Titanium, according to a bio at HarperCollins Publishers.
As for his appearance in the High Country: “This might be your last chance to see Tom Robbins, who is now in his 80s. This is his last hurrah in writing and touring,” a description of the event reads on the ASU website. “Come indulge your unconventional and wilder side.”
Events Featuring Robbins in the High Country
Wednesday, Sept. 10: Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (BRAHM) hosts a “Welcome Home Reception” for Robbins. The event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets to the cocktail reception cost $75 and include an autographed copy of Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life. Also, those that purchase tickets to the BRAHM reception will receive reserved seating at Thursday’s event noted below.
For more information, contact BRAHM at 828-295-9099
Thursday, Sept. 11: A reading and performance by Robbins was initially scheduled for the Rosen Hall Center, but due to popular demand, the event has been moved to the Schaefer Center for Performing Arts on the campus of Appalachian State University. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the event starts at 7 p.m.
Seating, which will be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis, is free for this event. Free parking is available at the Raley lot, which is located across the street from the venue.
For tickets, call the Schaefer Center box office at 828-262-4046 or 800-841-2787.