As surprising as a well-disguised drop shot, as emphatic as a down-the-line sizzler,
Late to the Ball is a revelatory guidebook to life and sport. In this sparkling memoir, Gerry Marzorati’s plunge into the world of tennis isn’t a quixotic lark—or Plimptonian stunt—it’s about dedication and perseverance, second acts and third acts, and what happens when the spirit soars as the body begins to ache and hobble a little more. Marzorati is the most amiable guide and seeker I’ve read in years. His pursuit of meaning after sixty, delineated by the lines of a tennis court, includes intriguing science and philosophy, psychology and spiritualism, but what glimmers for this reader at the end is Marzorati’s appreciation—call it awe—of a game that brings with it a sense of ageless joy, mystery, and beauty.” —Michael Paterniti, author of Love and Other Ways of Dying and The Telling Room “Marzorati teaches us that to be a novice is a gift. This book is for anyone who’d like to improve, at anything.” —Leanne Shapton, author of Swimming Studies "Only a writer as agile and intelligent as Gerald Marzorati could pull off a book like Late to the Ball. Part tennis story, part memoir, part scientific inquiry into the effects of aging, this marvelous book offers pleasures on every page and moves with the energy of Roger Federer in his prime. A wonderful addition to that shelf of sports books that are about so much more than a game." —Darcy Frey, author of the The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams “Gerry Marzorati was the Rod Laver of editors because of his rare enthusiasm, quick intelligence and shining insight. Now, in Late to the Ball, he brings those same qualities to his quest for mid-life self-understanding through the prism of a tennis racket. Will he defeat opponents? Himself? Time? This urgent, meticulous book hits the mortal sweet spot known as revelation.” —Nicholas Dawidoff, author of The Catcher was a Spy “Gerald Marzorati might have taken up painting at age 60. Or even guitar. Instead, he took up tennis. Competitive tennis. And I am so glad he did. His account of this surprising late middle-age journey simply took my breath away. It's filled with terrific tennis writing, sure, but more than that Late to the Ball is a deeply moving—inspiring, really—story of renewal and regrowth.” —Jonathan Mahler, author of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning “Marzorati’s prose is crisp and clean and his storytelling is focused. He also demonstrates an editor’s knack for capturing the intricacies of other people’s lives....This enjoyable work is a study of the physicality, psychology, and biology of learning.” — Publishers Weekly "Late to the Ball is a soulful meditation on aging, companionship and the power of self-improvement. I know that sounds like the kind of cheesy thing people say on the cover of book jackets. But it’s really true." —Jason Gay, The Wall Street Journal “[Marzorati] undertakes a rigorous program of improving his tennis and himself, introducing us along the way to an appealing cast….He movingly meditates—at one point bringing me to tears—on the bond one forms with somebody whom one plays with and competes against, whom one faces across the net as if in a mirror. Reflective, wise and amiable, Marzorati is the kind of person and tennis player you’d be happy to share a game with and a beer afterward.” — The New York Times Book Review “[Marzorati] documents his unlikely late-in-life transformation into a tennis addict in his spirited and winningly self-deprecating memoir, Late to the Ball. It’s a book that any reader, regardless of age, or knowledge of the sport, would devour.” — San Francisco Chronicle "Marzorati’s prose is conversational, and the book encompasses more than insightful sportswriting—it is an intimate and captivating look at athleticism, competition, and aging." — The New Yorker “ Late to the Ball offers a courtside seat for an affirming, against-the-odds contest….Like Marzorati, I am also a late convent to tennis and relished his dogged quest as a consequence.” — Financial Times (UK) “The topic is tennis, the subject mortality. A thoughtful and poignant take on the fight to hit a few winners before the match runs out.” — Sports Illustrated “Marzorati offers a thoughtful guide to growing older and dispensing with fixed ideas about age and ability.” — NYTBR’s Paperback Row
…throughout the book, [Marzorati] movingly meditatesat one point bringing me to tearson the bond one forms with somebody whom one both plays with and competes against, whom one faces across the net as if in a mirror. Reflective, wise and amiable, Marzorati is the kind of person and tennis player you'd be happy to share a game with and a beer afterward.
The New York Times Book Review - Jay Jennings
Marzorati, a New York Times Magazine editor and author (A Painter of Darkness) chronicles his six years trying to master the sport of tennis after picking it up in his mid-50s. Determined to be more than a recreational player, Marzorati not only works with the pro at his local club but also befriends a tennis-blogging Jungian psychotherapist, goes to tennis camp, visits a tennis academy to have his biomechanics analyzed, and enters tournaments to play the best U.S. players in his age group. Marzorati’s prose is crisp and clean and his storytelling is focused. He also demonstrates an editor’s knack for capturing the intricacies of other people’s lives, such as his coach’s immigration story or his playing partner’s battle with sepsis (which ends with the partial amputation of his arm). Sometimes this pushes the author’s own journey to the back burner, making him seem more of a spectator and less of a player. But observing, he finds, is a great way to educate oneself, and at its heart, this enjoyable work is a study of the physicality, psychology, and biology of learning. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick Literary. (May)
This engaging memoir is written by former New York Times Magazine editor Marzorati, who chose to up his tennis game in his 50s. Marzorati spoke to tennis coaches across the United States about their approaches to teaching and understanding the game. The book is not simply a reflection of the author's love and passion for tennis; it also serves as an exemplar of how seeking out challenges at any age can be a fundamentally sound physical and mental endeavor. Similar to William Finnegan's Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life in that Marzorati pursues a sport that decidedly does not come easier with the passing of time, and one that he will never truly master, this work ultimately speaks of empowerment even if only in small increments. As with Finnegan's book, this volume looks at how aging allows the older athlete to come to a deeper understanding of the lives they have led and continue to lead. VERDICT This solid entry in the sports canon is comparable to John Updike's introspective musings on his golf game. Marzorati's reflections on his love for tennis and the process of mastering its subtleties makes for a delightful read sure to satisfy any tennis player.—Brian Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM
A career editor and writer takes up tennis at age 60—not as a hobby, but competitively. One of the benefits of advancements in medicine and the lengthening of the human life span is the range of options open to people in the second part of their lives. Increased physical and mental health make all sorts of pursuits possible that would have one day seemed ludicrous—within limits, of course. Where those limits are, however, continues to shift. Marzorati (A Painter of Darkness: Leon Golub and Our Times, 1990) spent nearly his entire working career as a writer and editor, culminating with editorial oversight of the New York Times Magazine from 2003 to 2010, a job that demanded attention and rigorous oversight of the minute details of words and letters. The author decided to apply this level of discipline and exactitude to tennis—but not simply to play the game. Marzorati had a loftier goal: to be competitive despite his age and despite his need to learn the game from the ground up. The author draws many neat and insightful parallels between his career and his new pursuit, including the mix of solitude and competition and of pushing oneself in honing the necessary skills. The adage involving an old dog and new tricks doesn't hold up as well as one might think; studies have shown that task analysis—breaking down tasks into smaller components—can enable learning at any age. That isn't to say it's ever easy, and Marzorati put in the work, seeking counsel from trainers and others. Ultimately, his physical self-challenge grew into a larger questioning of the assumptions—both positive and negative—that he has about himself. What begins as a straightforward chronicle of a not-entirely-unusual midlife quest evolves into an examination of midlife reinvention in general, both the how and the why.