Having read and loved Tom’s books for the past twenty or so years, it was with keen anticipation that I got my hands on a copy of his new ‘None Autobiography’. As far as I know there is no one on the planet who writes like Mr Robbins, let alone is like him. The book, as he makes very clear is not an autobiography but a collection of stories he has been sharing with the women in his life for the last 50 years or so… and what a life it has been! The man is amazing and the roads he has traveled are as diverse as you would expect.
Tom states that he has had a ‘lifelong quest to personally interface with the great mystery – which may or may not be God.’ during this quest he has encounters with such diverse people as Allen Ginsberg, Joseph Campbell, Timothy Leary and turned down a radio show with Charles Manson. You get a love poem to a jam doughnut; which made me want to rush out and buy one immediately. Also his favourite food the tomato and mayonnaise sandwich makes an appearance or two and who knew ‘Timbuktu’ really does exist and to prove it he had to go there.
Tom describes his first LSD trip in an amazing way, for something he says can’t really be put into words and tells us it was the best day of his life.
There was a also a bowl of ripe plums on the coffee table, and earlier (it could have been thirty minutes earlier, three minutes, or three hours), I’d stared at a plum (for what could have been minutes, three minutes, or three hours), discovering that the purple plum skin was in actuality a subtle chromatic interplay of red, blue, pink, magenta, maroon, sapphire, indigo, russet, rose, carmine, ultramarine, lapis lazuli, and even gold…
Not all his thoughts about drugs are positive. He regrets espousing the merits of cocaine in ‘Still Life with Woodpecker’, but hey it was the 80s.
It is well known that Tom discovered his voice for writing after seeing a Doors concert in 1967. Robbins tells us: “I detected an ease, a freedom of expression, a syntax simultaneously wild and precise, a rare blending of reckless abandon and tight control”. He says it wasn’t the concert itself that lead to his style, merely that that was the defining moment for him. The moment when he knew what he had been planning to do since the age of five.
Towards the end of the book he does touch on his works but his life is the main event here, as it should be. What an amazing one he has lived, from starting out in North Carolina and Virginia during his childhood, to a brief stint in New York and finally deciding Seattle was the place for him.
Robbins has been a poet, a meteorologist, a soldier, a journalist, an art critic, a radio DJ and of course, a world famous novelist.
It is a brilliant book, as expected. It’s a funny, laugh out loud, whimsical and it makes me wish he would run for president. The world would surely be a better place if he did.