From rock climbing to rodeo, sumo wrestling to slow-pitch softball, boomerangs to bowling, this collection of articles by one of America's leading journalists probes the recreational lives of people of all ages. From arctic Alaska to an island in the Bahamas, these pieces crawl into the more remote nooks and crannies of our culture, showing what our sporting passions and obsessions say about us as individuals and as a society. Funky, fascinating, heroic, and compassionate, Pumping Granite is a one-of-a-kind book about men, women, and children and the unusual games they play.
The athletes to whom Mike D'Orso introduces us aren't all triumphant winners. In fact, some of them are back in the pack somewhere, at least as baffled as the rest of us are likely to be most of the time, which is, of course, part of the point. The rest of the point is that D'Orso is a good listener with the wit to invite us to care about his subjects, many of whom are games players. Sports fans should be grateful that D'Orso has wandered around on their turn and come back to tell all these engaging tales, but if only sports fans read these stories, it will be a shame. The best of them are not about sports; they're about what it's like to be alive on the planet. --Bill Littlefield, commentator for National Public Radio
Extraordinary, graced with the sure touch of a natural storyteller, the discipline of an investigative reporter, and the word craft of a novelist. --Los Angeles Times
Mike D'Orso is a natural-born storyteller with a sure feel for the foibles of human nature. He doesn't varnish his characters, and in the process, he makes the reader care deeply about them. --Detroit Free Press
Mike D'Orso is lucid. He is vivid. He is graceful. He is sensitive. He is full of facts. He is my idea of a wonderful feature writer. --Howard Simons, former managing editor of the Washington Post
[D'Orso] keeps track of a huge cast of characters and delineates each one with the insight of a serious novelist. --New Yorker
His work is in the tradition of a Capote. --St. Petersburg Times
The son of a U.S. Naval submarine officer, Mike D'Orso lived in thirteen cities (from San Diego to Key West to Frankfurt, Germany) by the time he graduated from high school near Washington, D.C. After graduation from the College of William and Mary with a degree in philosophy, D'Orso traveled around the country, working odd jobs including driving a dump truck, tending a small grocery store at a Rocky Mountain ski resort, working as a golf course greenskeeper, and sorting mail for the postal service. He taught high school for one year before earning his master's degree in English from William and Mary, where he wrote his thesis on Beat author Jack Kerouac.
The co-author of four autobiographies: Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd; For the Children: Lessons from a Visionary Principle, with Madeline Cartwright: The Cost of Courage: The Journey of an American Congressman, with Carl Elliott, Sr.; and Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage, with Dorothy S. Redford. D'Orso is a features writer for the Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star newspapers in Norfolk, where he has worked since 1984. He is also a frequent contributor to Sports Illustrated magazine, and his award-winning work has appeared in other national publications fanging from Reader's Digest to People magazine.