Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren
categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence
On the occasion of the paperback publication of Life Among Giants:
Given the profusion of extraordinary writers that live amongst us in Portland and in Maine, there can be a tendency to overlook or take for granted some of the literary treasures penned by our friends and neighbors. Keeping one’s literary ear to the ground always yields hidden treasures and for some time I had been hearing accolades about the work of Bill Roorbach, creator of an impressive oeuvre that encompasses memoir (Summers With Juliet), short stories (Big Bend) and essays (Temple Stream and Writing Life Stories). And now this versatile writer has graced us with his big book, his masterpiece, Life Among Giants, which just been released in paperback.
Life Among Giants is a novel that recounts the life of David “Lizard” Hochmeyer. Orphaned as a young man after witnessing his parents’ double-murder, Lizard embarks upon a quest to discover who killed his parents, an agenda that evolves into a journey to find his place in the world. Surrounded by a colorful cast of characters that include his troubled older sister Kate and Sylphide, the world famous ballerina who lives across the lake, author Roorbach creates an irresistible narrative around an at-first awkward, groping youth, who slowly and sometimes painfully finds his way to a place of wisdom and contentment and big-heartedness. Lizard may not be the flashiest or the most charismatic figure in this exuberant novel, but he is the one you will remember long afterwards.
This is a big book with all the essential ingredients of a page-turner: a fascinating mystery, an abundance of lust and an appreciation of romance and food and sports and dance and friendship and love. But at the heart of this work is the vision and skills of an artist who has labored all his life to perfect his craft. At a recent reading author Roorbach recounted the work he has done over the years–bartender, cattle wrangler, teacher, plumber, musician, carpenter–all in the interest of having time to write. And now we the readers become the fortunate beneficiaries of those labors.
This a book not to be missed and a perfect addition to the packed bag headed to the beach for a late summer sojourn.
[Bill Lundgren is a writer, blogger, teacher and bookseller. A version of this review first appeared in the Longfellow Books newsletter.]