By Spencer Auten, Photographer
Published in print Sept.24, 2014
Tom Robbins, the outlaw poet of pop fiction, the psychedelic philosopher of sexual prose, the proverbial Pride And Joy of The High Country’s literary history, made a triumphant return to Appalachia last week.
The event, “Another Blowing Rock Attraction: An Evening With Tom Robbins” was hosted by the library advisory board at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
The audience sat in patience, apparently aroused by the excitement, while some university affiliate gave a customary introduction. Then the beloved author walked out from behind the curtains, greeted by a thunderous explosion of applause and whooping from the audience comparable to that of a rock n’ roll concert.
“I’ve got to come to Boone more often,” Robbins exclaimed.
Robbins had come to read excerpts from his new book of memoirs titled “Tibetan Peach Pie.” The stories he shared seemed larger than life, but then again what else would you expect from an author whose novels feature protagonists such as a can of beans or a clan of bi-curious cowgirls? Nevertheless, Robbins ensured us that he told the stories of his life exactly how he remembered them.
Robbins began with his childhood in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, the highest town east of the smoky mountains and an ideal place for an over-imaginative future author to come of age, a town that has a history rich with Native American folklore, a place where childish fantasies can run wild and uninhibited.
He then moved into his young adult life, recalling his first experiences with LSD. “No one I knew had even heard of it,” he explained. “I would tell people, ‘last week I ate two little blue pills and then I went inside a daisy.’”
Perhaps the most unforgettable story Robbins read From “Tibetan Peach Pie” concerned his affair with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to Robbins, In the mid 1990s, the FBI put him under surveillance due to the suspicion that he might be the Unabomber, which sounds irrational, until one considers the themes he explores in his first novel, Still Life With Woodpecker; the rejection of technology, the romantic lifestyle of the outlaw and dynamite.
As if that wasn’t enough cause for alarm, Tom Robbins had an uncanny resemblance to the sketch of the suspect.
The case was eventually dismissed, but not until after Robbins was interrogated in his home by two attractive female FBI agents. “The FBI is not stupid,” he said. “They knew my weakness.”
The evening came to a close with a Q & A with the author. Once the moderator announced that there would be no further questions, a flustered and probably high App State student grabbed the microphone and desperately yelled, “what did you see in the daisy, Tom?”
Robbins calmly responded, “A cathedral made of mathematics and honey.”
If “Still Life With Woodpecker” is the literary equivalent to an appetizer, “Jitterbug Perfume” the main course, then “Tibetan Peach Pie” is sure to be a delicious desert from one of the most imaginative authors of contemporary literature.