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April 27, 2006 • Volume 14 Number 16

Prof. Carlo Rotella (English)

Guggenheim Award Will Aid Rotella's Next Book

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded a 2006 fellowship to Prof. Carlo Rotella (English), who will use the award to complete a new book on the place of music in the lives of various professional and amateur musicians.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of unusually distinguished achievement and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. Some 178 artists, scholars and scientists were selected from 3,000 applicants for the awards.

"This is a great honor for Carlo Rotella, one of our most prolific colleagues. He has already written three books and many articles on various aspect of urban culture, including urban literature, jazz and boxing," said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Joseph Quinn. "If history is any guide, this will be another terrific volume."

The Guggenheim Fellowship, says Rotella, "clears a block of time to concentrate on the project. That may not sound very dramatic, but it's actually the rarest and most precious gift for anybody with a job who's trying to write a book. I'm deeply grateful for it."

Rotella's project is titled Playing in Time: A Suite of Musical Lives, about the signifying place of music in lives that are shaped by nonmusical forces and priorities.

"Like many people, I have always vaguely assumed that music is the freest and purest of the arts, the least constrained by circumstance," said Rotella.

"But the more I study and write about music and the lives of musicians, the more I see that much of what is most affecting and interesting about music lies precisely in its relationship to the context within which it takes shape."

Those profiled in Playing in Time include jazz fantasy campers, who can be full-time musicians for just one week of the year; a bipolar bluesman whose career has swung erratically between greatness and failure; and the alumni of a college band who, 20 years later, have all given up music as their families and careers have pulled them in other directions - all except for the one who went on to be a rock star.

Rotella is director of the American Studies Program at Boston College. He teaches courses on American literature, American Studies, urban literatures and cultures, and creative nonfiction writing. His books include Good with Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other Characters from the Rust Belt, and Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, and his writing has appeared in such publications as The American Scholar, Harper's, The Washington Post Magazine, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe and "The Best American Essays."

-Stephen Gawlik

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