Dave TV

categories: Cocktail Hour

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Oh, how Bill and Dave’s has fallen…..I’ve taken to simply cutting and pasting my Facebook posts in here. Like this one:


Okay lame-o friends who never watched this even though, and let me stress this next point, I WAS HOSTING A FUCKING TV SHOW. Now there are no excuses. For six months people said to me, Well is there a link or something so I can see it?, and I muttered, Well, I don’t really know….Finally, I decided to take action and did what I should have done long ago: I asked for help from a young person. It took her about twenty minutes to google around and find this link:






Ventriloquist Days: A Memoir

categories: Cocktail Hour

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This morning I found myself feeling wistful about my years on the road as a ventriloquist. It was good honest work and I miss it. And we sure entertained a lot of people, didn’t we Bill Roorbach?

Bill and dave


On the Road with Noah

categories: Cocktail Hour


We have been in Boulder now for over two weeks but other than scribbled journal notes detailing my daily rides and bird sightings I haven’t written much about it. Been too busy revising the Ultimate Frisbee book and enjoying being back here.


But I feel obliged to say a few words about how I got here. While Nina and Hadley flew out, I drove with my nephew Noah. Noah is 19 and about to be a junior at the University of North Carolina Asheville, and before this summer he had never been west of Birmingham, Alabama. We drove his car west three weeks ago, heading to Silver City, New Mexico, where I had a talk to give. There we explored the Gila Wilderness and the great cave dwellings, before winding our way north toward the Grand Canyon and Canyonlands. We also spent a night camping in the La Sal mountains in a beautiful aspen grove.

It rained almost every day we were in New Mexico and Arizona, prompting Noah’s disbelief in the region’s famous claims to aridity.  We stopped at Ken Sleight’s place after the La Sal night and then worked our way back east on 70 to Boulder. Noah spent 10 days with us there, hiking, chauffeuring Hadley, and beating me at ping-pong.

 Noah meets the Grand Canyon

Noah meets the Grand Canyon


noah field





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Twain’s End

categories: Cocktail Hour

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twainWhen I was at the Tucson Book Festival I was lucky to meet a great writer and generous soul named Lynn Cullen. Now her book about the relationship between Mark Twain and his secretary, Twain’s End, is out in paperback.


The Huffington Post wrote: “Lynn Cullen is the Bronte of our day.”


In the book Lynn re-imagines the tangled relationships between Twain, Isabel Lyon, and Ashcroft, as well as the little-known love triangle between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy, and Anne’s husband, John Macy, which comes to light during their visit to Twain’s Connecticut home in 1909. Add to the party a furious Clara Clemens, smarting from her own failed love affair, and carefully kept veneers shatter.


“Reputation-squaring novel. Cullen splashes a surplus of fuel onto her incendiary raw material.” – New York Times Book Review


“[A] fascinating interpretation of this early 20th century literary immortal, distinguished by incisive character portrayals and no-holds-barred scrutiny.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

Read more at:http://lynncullen.com/

The Taming of the Wild

categories: Cocktail Hour

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istockphoto-getty-imagesI have an essay in the new issue of The American Scholar. Here’s how it starts:


I am standing on top of Bald Mountain in Sonoma Valley, staring profoundly off toward the far Pacific and the dying sun. I scrunch my eyebrows and squint a little, thinking this will add to my overall air of deep thoughtfulness. My facial muscles are responding not to the transporting magic of nature, however, but to another imperative: I need to look good for the camera. Cameras, actually. Off to my side, a young man named Jimmy, whose easygoing professionalism I’ve come to respect over the past 10 days of shooting, points a surprisingly heavy (I have tried to lift it) camera at my head to film me in profile. Up above, a drone swoops over to capture the full grandeur of the moment. Following instructions, I move closer to the edge of the mountain, striking a pose that is meant to say part world conqueror, part shaman. I am a New Age Cortés.


Later, in search of the perfect shot, the drone will crash into a tree and be rendered inoperable. Later still, when I see the drone footage on TV, I will realize for the first time that I have a significant bald spot.


The idea of the show, put oversimply, is that nature is good and that screens—whether those of computer, camera, TV, or phone—are bad. But of course it takes a lot of screens to get this point across. The irony of this is the sort that is easy for a sixth-grader to comprehend. I know this for a fact, because when I use the TV show as a teaching moment with my 12-year-old daughter, railing against all her texting and phoning and computing, and telling her she should get out in nature more, she rightly points out that the whole time I was out in nature, I was being filmed.

Read the rest HERE



Braving It

categories: Cocktail Hour

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braving it 3James Campbell’s Braving It came out last week. It’s a great book, beautiful and original, the story of a father and a daughter and their adventures in Alaska. It’s about wildness and beauty but also about family and the encroaching fear of aging, of a father coming into a strange new time in his life just as his daughter is coming into a strange new time in hers. There has been nothing like it as far as the nature/father/daughter combination, and it is much more interesting to me than the theory/Last Child in the Woods-type stuff. Nothing feels forced and the relationship comes across as very real and moving. Meanwhile the writing about the natural world and the descriptions in general are great.  Creosote in the stove is like scurrying mice and spruce trees are “weary white-robed pilgrims worshiping December’s new moon.” It’s both taut and lush, a tough combo to beat.


braving it2

I was honored that Jim asked me for a blurb. Here is what I came up with:


Braving It is a beautiful and original book, an antidote to the screen-ification of modern life, and if there is any justice in the world it will be a huge hit. Wilder than Wild, it is also the most honest, moving and true story of a relationship between a father and a daughter that I have ever read. As the father enters the country of middle-age, and the daughter edges toward adulthood, they share an epic Alaskan braving itadventure that includes running rivers, polar and grizzly bears, and bitter cold. They also encounter something even more dangerous: fleeting time. They both seem to realize that they will never again have this moment, which,for all the book’s beauty, gives it an edge of sadness. Countering this sadness, is the gift that father gives daughter and that the writer gives the reader: the gift of the elemental now, of moments of wind, fire,water, snow, cold, beauty. And of equally primal moments of human love and connection.”




Lewis Robinson’s “Talk Shop” Podcast, with Yours Truly, Bill Roorbach

categories: Cocktail Hour / Podcasts / Table For Two: Interviews

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Lewis_RobinsonI enjoyed this talk with Lewis Robinson, which took place in his man cave with microphones, with an actual train going by.  I sound like I’m almost asleep–and it’s true, I was very tired.  But Lewis drew me out, and as David Olson said on Facebook: “This view into the writer’s mind is both fascinating and scary. In three words, I loved it!” I loved it, too, as Lewis is a new old friend, and an awfully smart, sweet guy, also a novelist.

All episodes of Talk Shop are free: check out past interviews with Justin Tussing, Richard Russo, Susan Conley, Ron Currie Jr., Jen Blood, Monica Wood, Callie Kimball, Brock Clarke, Megan Grumbling, Gibson Fay-Leblanc, Kate Christensen, Phuc Tran, and Keith Lee Morris.

Here’s the link to the podcast.