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Amazon Asks: "Life Among Giants" Author Bill Roorbach

RoorbachDescribe Life Among Giants (Amazon editors' Spotlight pick for Best Books of November) in one sentence.

A mere mortal tries to walk among the gods, or anyway, a talented young athlete’s life and family gets tangled with the life and family of a world-famous ballerina who lives in the mansion across the way, watch out.

In ten words.

“… a thrilling indulgence, a tale of opulence, love triangles, and madness.” Oh, sorry—that was Publisher’s Weekly.

Try again.

Two families get entangled, one rich, one poor, and fate steps in.

Three words.

Revenge takes time.

What’s on your night-table/Kindle?

It’s a big stack. Here’s the actual order, bottom to top, some already read, some cracked, some long-term projects, some awaiting insomnia: Bring up the Bodies, by Hillary Mantel; Canada by Richard Ford; Wild, by Cheryl Strayed; Waging Heavy Peace, Neil Young; When I was a Child I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson; Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro; Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon; To Dance, Siena Cherson Siegel (borrowed from my daughter, who’s twelve); Blake Bailey’s Cheever (on the occasion of Cheever’s 100th birthday); Lost Memory of Skin, Russell Banks; Legs Get Led Astray, by Chloe Caldwell.

Three to five favorite books of all time.

The Tempest, William Shakespeare; Middlemarch, George Eliot; Moby-Dick, Herman Melville; The Great Gatsby, Scott Fitzgerald; My Antonia, Willa Cather.

Important book you never read.

So many! But, let’s say Paradise Lost, by John Milton, though I have a sense of the plot: Adam and Eve eat an apple and things go to Hell.

Book that changed your life.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki. Simple and pure thinking, often mysterious, even confusing, that (back in the day) somehow let me settle down and just write.  

DYINGBook that made you want to become a writer.

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner. The multiple narrators made me see for the first time how it was done, and how I might do it, too. Turned out it was harder than it looked. By far. 

What’s your most memorable author moment?

A really funny conversation on the main drag in Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard, with an older guy who invited my whole gang back to his gorgeous house for drinks when we discovered it was a dry town.  His name was Bill like mine and we partied late into the night as his friends stopped by, story after story. I didn’t get wise till a few days later, when I noticed the author photo on the book I’d been reading: Sophie’s Choice.

What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?

Making old cars and houses and various machines like new with a wave of my hand.  

What are you obsessed with now?

The movies. The art theater’s an hour from here and I’ll go and watch three or four films in a row,  a whole afternoon and evening, analyze every second, every aspect, every nuance, story first.

What are you stressed about now?

Getting this place ready for winter before my book tour. I live in western Maine and it snows a lot here.  I wave my hand and nothing happens.

What are you psyched about now?

GiantsAll the great attention Life Among Giants is getting. Grateful, too!

What's your most prized/treasured possession?

A gorgeous old pair of pear bookends carved in walnut that were my mother’s.

Writer crush.

Cheryl Strayed

What’s next for you?

A new novel, about strangers trapped in a cabin by a snowstorm.

What’s the last dream you remember?

I got onstage for a reading without pants but kept going, gales of derisive laughter. I wonder what that’s all about?

Favorite line.

First line of Joseph Heller’s Something Happened: “I get the willies when I see closed doors.” Or my dead mother’s frequent line when hearing of unexpected meetings: “Small, smelly world.”

Favorite method of procrastination?

Cooking. Gardening. Reading. Nap.


Great food.


Great Whiskey

What do you collect?

Seashells, smooth rocks, books, kind people.

Best piece of fan mail you ever got?

Mother of a friend telling me she read my essay about him every year on the anniversary of his death and found him alive again, perfectly alive, effusive thanks, tear-stained page.



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Köszönöm, hogy írásban ezt. Tényleg úgy érzem, mintha tudok sokkal többet erről, mint én tettem korábban.

I just bought the book because of this interview. Fantastic responses.

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