front cover of The Bittersweet Science
The Bittersweet Science
Fifteen Writers in the Gym, in the Corner, and at Ringside
Edited by Carlo Rotella and Michael Ezra
University of Chicago Press, 2017
Weighing in with a balance of the visceral and the cerebral, boxing has attracted writers for millennia. Yet few of the writers drawn to it have truly known the sport—and most have never been in the ring. Moving beyond the typical sentimentality, romanticism, or cynicism common to writing on boxing, The Bittersweet Science is a collection of essays about boxing by contributors who are not only skilled writers but also have extensive firsthand experience at ringside and in the gym, the corner, and the ring itself.

Editors Carlo Rotella and Michael Ezra have assembled a roster of fresh voices, ones that expand our understanding of the sport’s primal appeal. The contributors to The Bittersweet Science—journalists, fiction writers, fight people, and more—explore the fight world's many aspects, considering boxing as both craft and business, art form and subculture. From manager Charles Farrell’s unsentimental defense of fixing fights to former Golden Glover Sarah Deming’s complex profile of young Olympian Claressa Shields, this collection takes us right into the ring and makes us feel the stories of the people who are drawn to—or sometimes stuck in—the boxing world. We get close-up profiles of marquee attractions like Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr., as well as portraits of rising stars and compelling cornermen, along with first-person, hands-on accounts from fighters’ points of view. We are schooled in not only how to hit and be hit, but why and when to throw in the towel. We experience the intimate immediacy of ringside as well as the dim back rooms where the essentials come together. And we learn that for every champion there’s a regiment of journeymen, dabblers, and anglers for advantage, for every aspiring fighter, a veteran in painful decline.

Collectively, the perspectives in The Bittersweet Science offer a powerful in-depth picture of boxing, bobbing and weaving through the desires, delusions, and dreams of boxers, fans, and the cast of managers, trainers, promoters, and hangers-on who make up life in and around the ring.

Contributors: Robert Anasi, Brin-Jonathan Butler, Donovan Craig, Sarah Deming, Michael Ezra, Charles Farrell, Rafael Garcia, Gordon Marino, Louis Moore, Gary Lee Moser, Hamilton Nolan, Gabe Oppenheim, Carlo Rotella, Sam Sheridan, and Carl Weingarten.
 
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Cut Time
An Education at the Fights
Carlo Rotella
University of Chicago Press, 2005
"Boxing is not just fighting," writes Carlo Rotella. "It is also training and living right and preparing to go the distance in the broadest sense of the phrase, a relentless managing of self that anyone who gets truly old must learn." Rotella's Cut Time chronicles his immersion in the fight world, from the brutal classroom of the gym to the spectacle of fight night. An award-winning writer and ringside veteran, Rotella unearths the hidden wisdom in any kind of fight, from barroom brawl to HBO extravaganza.

Tracing the consequences of hurt and craft, the two central facts of boxing, Rotella reveals moving resonances between the worlds inside and outside the ropes. The brief, disastrous fistic career of one of his students pinpoints the moment when adulthood arrives; the hard-won insight of a fellow fan shows Rotella how to reckon with a car crash. Mismatches, resilience, pride, pain, and aging—Rotella's lessons from the ring extend far beyond the sport. In Cut Time, Rotella achieves the near-impossible: he makes the fight world relevant to us, whether we're fans or not.

"Cut Time should be read not just by fight aficionados but also by fans of intelligent nonfiction writing. . . . An absorbing read."—Sports Illustrated
"Just when you think it's all been written, a good writer takes a shining new look at an old subject and breathes life into it. . . . Rotella has preserved the blow-by-blow and the grandeur of another age but has somehow expanded the ring to include his own generation's proclivities and sensibility."—Los Angeles Times

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Playing in Time
Essays, Profiles, and Other True Stories
Carlo Rotella
University of Chicago Press, 2012
From jazz fantasy camp to running a movie studio; from a fight between an old guy and a fat guy to a fear of clowns—Carlo Rotella’s Playing in Time delivers good stories full of vivid characters, all told with the unique voice and humor that have garnered Rotella many devoted readers in the New York Times Magazine, Boston Globe, and Washington Post Magazine, among others. The two dozen essays in Playing in Time, some of which have never before been published, revolve around the themes and obsessions that have characterized Rotella’s writing from the start: boxing, music, writers, and cities. What holds them together is Rotella’s unique focus on people, craft, and what floats outside the mainstream. “Playing in time” refers to how people make beauty and meaning while working within the constraints and limits forced on them by life, and in his writing Rotella transforms the craft and beauty he so admires in others into an art of his own.

Rotella is best known for his writings on boxing, and his essays here do not disappoint. It’s a topic that he turns to for its colorful characters, compelling settings, and formidable life lessons both in and out of the ring. He gives us tales of an older boxer who keeps unretiring and a welterweight who is “about as rich and famous as a 147-pound fighter can get these days,” and a hilarious rumination on why Muhammad Ali’s phrase “I am the greatest” began appearing (in the mouth of Epeus) in translations of The Iliad around 1987. His essays on blues, crime and science fiction writers, and urban spaces are equally and deftly engaging, combining an artist’s eye for detail with a scholar’s sense of research, whether taking us to visit detective writer George Pelecanos or to dance with the proprietress of the Baby Doll Polka Club next to Midway Airport in Chicago.

Rotella’s essays are always smart, frequently funny, and consistently surprising. This collection will be welcomed by his many fans and will bring his inimitable style and approach to an even wider audience.

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front cover of Rooting for the Home Team
Rooting for the Home Team
Edited by Daniel A. Nathan
University of Illinois Press, 2013
Rooting for the Home Team examines how various American communities create and maintain a sense of collective identity through sports. Looking at large cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, and Los Angeles as well as small rural towns, suburbs, and college towns, the contributors consider the idea that rooting for local athletes and home teams often symbolizes a community's preferred understanding of itself, and that doing so is an expression of connectedness, public pride and pleasure, and personal identity.
 
Some of the wide-ranging essays point out that financial interests also play a significant role in encouraging fan bases, and modern media have made every seasonal sport into yearlong obsessions. Celebrities show up for big games, politicians throw out first pitches, and taxpayers pay plenty for new stadiums and arenas. The essays in Rooting for the Home Team cover a range of professional and amateur athletics, including teams in basketball, football, baseball, and even the phenomenon of no-glove softball.
 
Contributors are Amy Bass, Susan Cahn, Mark Dyreson, Michael Ezra, Elliott J. Gorn, Christopher Lamberti, Allison Lauterbach, Catherine M. Lewis, Shelley Lucas, Daniel A. Nathan, Michael Oriard, Carlo Rotella, Jaime Schultz, Mike Tanier, David K. Wiggins, and David W. Zang.

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front cover of The World Is Always Coming to an End
The World Is Always Coming to an End
Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood
Carlo Rotella
University of Chicago Press, 2019
An urban neighborhood remakes itself every day—and unmakes itself, too. Houses and stores and streets define it in one way. But it’s also people—the people who make it their home, some eagerly, others grudgingly. A neighborhood can thrive or it can decline, and neighbors move in and move out. Sometimes they stay but withdraw behind fences and burglar alarms. If a neighborhood becomes no longer a place of sociability and street life, but of privacy indoors and fearful distrust outdoors, is it still a neighborhood?
 
In the late 1960s and 1970s Carlo Rotella grew up in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood—a place of neat bungalow blocks and desolate commercial strips, and sharp, sometimes painful social contrasts. In the decades since, the hollowing out of the middle class has left residents confronting—or avoiding—each other across an expanding gap that makes it ever harder for them to recognize each other as neighbors. Rotella tells the stories that reveal how that happened—stories of deindustrialization and street life; stories of gorgeous apartments with vistas onto Lake Michigan and of Section 8 housing vouchers held by the poor. At every turn, South Shore is a study in contrasts, shaped and reshaped over the past half-century by individual stories and larger waves of change that make it an exemplar of many American urban neighborhoods. Talking with current and former residents and looking carefully at the interactions of race and class, persistence and change, Rotella explores the tension between residents’ deep investment of feeling and resources in the physical landscape of South Shore and their hesitation to make a similar commitment to the community of neighbors living there.
 
Blending journalism, memoir, and archival research, The World Is Always Coming to an End uses the story of one American neighborhood to challenge our assumptions about what neighborhoods are, and to think anew about what they might be if we can bridge gaps and commit anew to the people who share them with us. Tomorrow is another ending.
 
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front cover of The World Is Always Coming to an End
The World Is Always Coming to an End
Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood
Carlo Rotella
University of Chicago Press, 2019
This is an audiobook version of this book. 

An urban neighborhood remakes itself every day—and unmakes itself, too. Houses and stores and streets define it in one way. But it’s also people—the people who make it their home, some eagerly, others grudgingly. A neighborhood can thrive or it can decline, and neighbors move in and move out. Sometimes they stay but withdraw behind fences and burglar alarms. If a neighborhood becomes no longer a place of sociability and street life, but of privacy indoors and fearful distrust outdoors, is it still a neighborhood?
 
In the late 1960s and 1970s Carlo Rotella grew up in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood—a place of neat bungalow blocks and desolate commercial strips, and sharp, sometimes painful social contrasts. In the decades since, the hollowing out of the middle class has left residents confronting—or avoiding—each other across an expanding gap that makes it ever harder for them to recognize each other as neighbors. Rotella tells the stories that reveal how that happened—stories of deindustrialization and street life; stories of gorgeous apartments with vistas onto Lake Michigan and of Section 8 housing vouchers held by the poor. At every turn, South Shore is a study in contrasts, shaped and reshaped over the past half-century by individual stories and larger waves of change that make it an exemplar of many American urban neighborhoods. Talking with current and former residents and looking carefully at the interactions of race and class, persistence and change, Rotella explores the tension between residents’ deep investment of feeling and resources in the physical landscape of South Shore and their hesitation to make a similar commitment to the community of neighbors living there.
 
Blending journalism, memoir, and archival research, The World Is Always Coming to an End uses the story of one American neighborhood to challenge our assumptions about what neighborhoods are, and to think anew about what they might be if we can bridge gaps and commit anew to the people who share them with us. Tomorrow is another ending.
 
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