Matthew Rothschild ’04

April 09, 2009

By Ruth Jackson

Dumbfounded Luck

The story of Matt (Dicker) Rothschild’s childhood features a setting and cast of characters that would make any writer envious: a 19-bedroom apartment in New York’s Upper West Side, an absent mother, an eccentric grandmother, and a boy (that would be Rothschild) with a knack for Judy Garland impersonations and a penchant for getting into trouble at school. During his college years, Rothschild, who discovered writing as a creative outlet, began scribbling thoughts about his dysfunctional childhood in a loose-leaf notebook. Those thoughts would eventually comprise his first book.

Dumbfounded, released by Random House last fall, has already earned wide acclaim for the young author, garnering him comparisons to the likes of David Sedaris. In this “bitingly entertaining and unexpectedly tender memoir,” Rothschild pulls from moments of hilarity and pain, giving flesh and depth to his life and the grandparents who raised him. He credits his grandfather as the source of his levelheadedness and his mother as the source of plenty of pain, but it was his grandmother who gave him the daring to be able to put his life out there for all the world to see and judge. And to do so with humor.

Rothschild returned to Rollins in October to share insights about his life and his writing career during an informal conversation with members of the campus community. Professor of English Twila Pappay recalled one of the first papers her former student opted to workshop in her class. “I warned him he might want to choose another piece—one that wouldn’t risk causing his fellow students to hate him. He responded, ‘I’m going to have to get used to it, if I’m ever going to publish.’” Getting used to it didn’t take long, thanks to the inspiration of his grandmother. “My grandmother was the devil on your shoulder saying, ‘Stick it to ’em!’” Rothschild said.

This devil-may-care attitude has been the secret to Dumbfounded’s success. And succeed it has. The memoir has received high praise from fellow authors and stellar reviews from the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews. It has also drawn interest for film and television rights. According to Rothschild, “Sarah Jessica Parker fell in love with the book and through her production company, Pretty Matches, tried to buy the rights to a television show. HBO nixed the idea, but a producer at Fox has shown interest.” Interest has also arisen abroad, resulting in the sale of Dumbfounded’s Italian rights.

Now busy promoting his book, Rothschild kicked off the Florida leg of his fall 2008 book tour with an interview on WMFE’s Intersection program. In his spare time, he coordinates the Orlando chapter of the Florida Writers Association and presents seminars at writing conferences. And he hasn’t let the tools in his writer’s toolbox sit and collect dust: Rothschild is currently working on a novel, collaborating on a screenplay, and challenging himself with WWTMD: What would Toni Morrison do?

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