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Book Launch

Book Talk | The World Is Always Coming to an End

05/01 Wednesday | 6pm

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join for a talk for Carlo Rotella’s The World Is Always Coming to an End: Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood (University of Chicago Press, 2019), featuring the author in conversation with sociologist Eric Klinenberg.

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?

Carlo Rotella grew up in two houses at opposite ends of Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood in the 1970s. It’s a neighborhood of trim bungalow blocks and desolate commercial avenues, lakefront high-rises commanding spectacular views and walkup apartment buildings where most of the residents have incomes low enough to qualify for housing vouchers. In the decades since Rotella lived there, the hollowing out of the middle class has left haves and have-nots confronting one another across an expanding gap that makes it ever harder for them to recognize each other as neighbors. In this book, he returns to South Shore to tell the story of how that happened—of the interplay of local and national forces, individual stories and larger waves of change that have reshaped the American city in the past half century. Talking with current and former residents and looking carefully at the interactions of race and class, civic engagement and fear of crime, Rotella explores residents’ deep investments of feeling and resources in the physical landscape of South Shore and the obstacles they face in making a similar commitment to their neighbors.

Blending journalism 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 how neighbors can come together across widening gaps to form a vibrant community.

Carlo Rotella is professor of English, American studies, and journalism at Boston College. His books include Playing in Time:  Essays, Profiles, and Other True Stories, Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, Good With Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other Characters from the Rust Belt, and October Cities: The Redevelopment of Urban Literature. He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, the Whiting Writers Award, and the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. He writes regularly for The New York Times Magazine, he has been a columnist for The Boston Globe and radio commentator for WGBH, and his work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Best American Essays.

Eric Klinenberg is the director of the Institute for Public Knowledge and Professor of Sociology at NYU. He is the author of several books, including Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (Crown, 2018), and Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2002). His scholarly work has been published in journals including the American Sociological Review, Theory and Society, and Ethnography, and he has contributed to The New YorkerThe New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Slate.

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