Study Guide

Mr. Philbin in Tales of the Madman Underground

By John Barnes

Mr. Philbin

Mr. Philbin owns Philbin's Drugstore, which is one of exactly three restaurants in Lightsburg. Now, because of the reopening of the movie theater, it's also the only one open late on the weekends. By and large, he's a sweet old man. In Karl's words, "Philbin was about as nice a shop owner as you're going to find in a little Ohio town" (6.54). So, super nice, we're thinking.

Not only that, but Philbin's a pretty good businessman, "always looking for some way that the drugstore could make money and grow" (6.76). Unfortunately, up until now, he hasn't succeeded because he thinks a little too big—his ideas always center around "the magic formula to turn his dusty old dump of a drugstore into a gold mine" (6.78). In case you haven't caught on, Lightsburg is kind of a pathetic place and his clientele is pretty limited to begin with.

Still, his good side is not always on display. "Nice a guy as old Philbin usually was, he had some of that closed mind that Lightsburg turned out like soybeans and corn," Karl says. In his case, Karl feels that Philbin spends a lot of time judging his mom. Not that Karl's mom doesn't deserve plenty of judgment—but she's his mom, and he still takes offense to Philbin criticizing her party lifestyle.