About Richard Shapiro

Tobacco Brown Interviews the Author


T.B.: The message, Dickela. If you think this is a place for you to choke your metaphorical chicken by spoutin your thistle-witted poetastery, then you can just get you one of the other characters to ask you questions. Maybe you can get the dog to do it...

R.S.: Okay, okay, the message: once again, we have to start with 'none'...

T.B.(calls): Rover! You wanna come talk to this fella...

R.S.: No, wait; give me a chance to explain here. In the metaphysical sense, yes, there are messages aplenty in T.B. And, again, there is none...

T.B.: Dickela...

R.S.: ...because, seriously, my training has been in Television. I won some awards, got some nominations; you can look them up if you want. And I co-created a certain television series that did pretty well, you can look that up also if you want to know what it is.

T.B.: I know what it is, I heard of it. You must of made a buck on that one. Why don't you want to talk about it, you shamed of television?

R.S.: Are you kidding me, I had a marvelous time working in  Television and I'm darn proud of what I accomplished there, it's just...

T.B.: I hear ya, that was then an this is now. Don't matter a cow flop to me, I say every man's gotta hammer out his own brand. Any other debt you owe TV? Or you figure you'll just spare the literati that? 

R.S.: Not at all. I earned enough in TV to support my family, and to take the time to write Tobacco Brown...

T.B.: An a heck of a long piece of time it was, what I hear. Folks around you say you been workin on it since your bar mitzvah. An how old are you now, anyways?

R.S.: You can look that up, too.

T.B.: Little touchy bout that, are we? Hell, you're lucky to be alive, half your friends ain't.

R.S.: May we just get back to the subject. I count myself first a story-teller, okay. And my passion, if you want to call it that, is for the characters, for Barney and you and for your adventures, together and apart. Fascinated, almost as a reader, myself, to see how your outlaw career will play out. Or how Barney will seduce an entire community into sharing his psychotic hallucination and, with him, transmogrify it into a religion. To move an audience--now a reader--to tears... to anger... to laughter... that's what I mainly intend.

T.B.: Meanwhile, how would you like to not bullshit a bullshitter--there's also some pretty hard-case philosophic notions you took the trouble to slip in.

R.S.: You mean like free will is impossible because it would violate the laws of Newtonian physics?

T.B.: An don't nobody even talk to you about that randomness happens at the quantum level an bites Newton's causality in the ass.

R.S.: Einstein thought that was nonsense. And Borg said anyone who says he understands quantum mechanics has been smoking the wrong equations.

T.B.: An what bout that consciousness is only just a tiny left-over sliver of the mind-brain whose interpretation of the world ain't a whole lot more accurate than a horny toad's?

R.S.: That's how Cognitive Science sees it. For all of our lives we have no contact... none... zero... with the ninety-five percent of our mind-brains that formulate every action we take, every thought we are about to have. It does, though, pass along some stingy bit of it to the raggedy five percent we call consciousness. If you're interested, why don't you have a look into Lakoff and Johnson...

T.B.: An why don't you have a look into a whorehouse slop-basin. Or better yet into the King James Version.

R.S.: I have. Stole a copy from the Gideon Society, read it cover to cover. One of my favourite novels.

T.B.: There's an attitude as is not gonna make a lot of folks fond of you. But forget that, answer your main heresy for us.

R.S.: You mean the idea--the fact, in fact--that life is without meaning or purpose?

T.B.: Yeah, who said that--Chicken Little?

R.S.: As it happens, Mr. Little is one of the social commentators I respect most. But it was actually the French Nobelist in physiology, Jacques Monod,  who said...

T.B.: Jesus, Dickela. Y'know what I think. If there was a drunk physicist dyin in a gutter in Copenhagen, you'd find him an buy him a bottle of rot-gut just so's he'd swear he supports some Godless dystopian notion of yours. You mind, could we take this up some other time? I gotta go curry my horse.

R.S.: Sure, a man's horse is worth his life, I know that. But we will go on with this interview before too long?

T.B.: You can bet your saddle on it. I got you some questions in mind a whole lot harder than these ones.

more to follow...

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"The best work of fiction I’ve yet encountered in the 21st century."

Lewis R. Baxter, Jr., M.D.,
Professor of Psychiatry
and Neuroscience,
University of Florida

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"The backstory of T.B. is utterly cinematic and will make a jewel of a motion picture."

David Paulsen,

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"A very funny, deeply moving book whose conclusions about the nature of reality I couldn’t disagree with more."

Edie Shapiro, Librarian/Archivist,
Philosophical Research Society

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"An astonishing work of the imagination which should not only be read, it should be taught. Tobacco Brown is a landmark."

Robert Robin, Novelist

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