On Billy Lombardo and “The Man with Two Arms”

Magical realism meets baseball in a debut novel

The Man with Two Arms by Billy Lombardo

In 2005, Billy Lombardo published his first book of short stories, fictionalized versions of his Bridgeport childhood, called Logic of a Rose: Chicago Stories. He hit a prolific stride last year with two more collections (How to Hold a Woman and Meanwhile, Roxy Mourns), all the while finishing an MFA at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, teaching English at the Latin School of Chicago in Lincoln Park, running the national student literary magazine Polyphony H.S., and writing his first novel, The Man with Two Arms.

The novel, which comes out in February (Overlook Press; $24.95), tells the story of Danny Granville, whose obsessive father molds him into an all-star ambidextrous pitcher for the Chicago Cubs—with a mystical curve ball thrown into an otherwise Roy Hobbs-like narrative. Ten agents rejected the book before an editor at Overlook found Logic of a Rose at Strand Bookstore in Manhattan and, after reading it in one night, e-mailed Lombardo. He sent The Man with Two Arms, and Overlook made an offer the next day.

“It feels like it’s pouring,” Lombardo says of his success, though he’s skeptical about keeping up his current pace. “These books are the product of the last five to seven years. There’s always a little bit of fear, like, Am I going to have the time again?”

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