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Novelist Tom Robbins Remembers W&L

Even though he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, acclaimed novelist Tom Robbins hasn’t forgotten where he spent his first couple of years as a college student: Washington and Lee. He visited Richmond the weekend of Oct. 20 to receive the Literary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Virginia, and he mentioned W&L in his acceptance speech and in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Robbins has written such popular novels as “Jitterbug Perfume,” “Another Roadside Attraction,” “Still Life with Woodpecker” and “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.” The latter was made into a movie in 1993.

Robbins was born in North Carolina and grew up in Warsaw, Va. He attended W&L as a member of the Class of 1954. After leaving W&L, he served in the Air Force, wrote for the Times-Dispatch and studied at VCU, graduating in 1959. He’s lived in the Pacific Northwest since the early 1960s.

During his time at W&L, he reported on sports for the Ring-Tum Phi student newspaper; his editor was none other than Tom Wolfe, of the Class of 1951. Wolfe won the same award from the Library of Virginia in 2007 and, coincidentally, was the subject of a Times-Dispatch feature in the same issue as the story on Robbins.

“He was a senior, the big man on campus, a literary star,” Robbins told the Times-Dispatch of Wolfe. “He wrote some marvelous stuff; his talent was already blossoming. I was just this naïve little freshman cub reporter. He was ostensibly my boss, but I don’t think he and I ever exchanged a word.”

Robbins also mentioned an incident at his fraternity house that involved an airborne biscuit and his housemother. Read that tale and the rest of the fascinating profile here.

Also honored at the Literary Awards was Jasmin Darznik, assistant professor of English at W&L. Her book, “The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life,” was a finalist for the People’s Choice Award for Nonfiction. A New York Times bestseller, it is now available in paperback.