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Katie Freeman, Riverhead Books

My Outside magazine profile of Beau Kittredge is now on newstands.

Gessner reflects with honesty and humor on his dedication to the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. He describes the sport’s ragtag culture as well as his annual quest for a national championship during his formative 20s in the mid-1980s. Gessner defends Ultimate’s anti-sport ethos but uses traditional sport themes, such as clutch performance, training regimes, and tournament drama. The book could have been tightened to more succinctly describe his musings on the idealistic and conflicting “Spirit of the Game” philosophy and the ambivalent effect of Ultimate on his behavior, relationships, and, most intriguingly, a writing career in desperate need of a jump start. What saves the book is, in Ultimate parlance, Gessner’s ability to “lay out” (to dive while making a catch): he is honest, especially in his observation of how he’s matured since his Frisbee days. He also remains entertainingly unrepentant about a decade spent in the throes of a game that itself was evolving beyond its carefree image. Gessner nicely captures the persistent pursuit of greatness in the face of doubt and failure.

A sprawling memoir and charting of one semi-toxic male's evolution as viewed through the oft-derided, but very popular and high-impact sport of ultimate frisbee, "Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth" also ruminates on aging, the creative process, and calming down. And if not exactly selling out, then navigating the uncomfortable ways that the things that you care about a whole lot slip away or just change and why you'd be advised to just get used to that shit and hold onto the parts you can hold onto. It is also, as far as I know, the definitive history of ultimate frisbee—a sport co-created as a lark by the guy who later went on to produce "Lethal Weapon" and "The Matrix"—which went from "a sport few outside of it took seriously," to, well, something that matters to a sizable chunk of people these days.
Think of "Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth" as a mock version of William Finnegan's "Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life," even down to the sunfaded oranges and browns of its cover design, where the tone is scrappier, sillier, and even more stoned, though just as reflective as Finnegan. (Brandon Soderberg)

Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth.
What’s the appeal of a nontraditional sport like Ultimate Frisbee? Self-officiated athletic competition, the thrill of outreaching your opponent for a flying disc (known as skying), team camaraderie, and membership in a tribe of nonconformists—all of which drew author Gessner (All the Wild That Remains, 2015) to the sport during his years at Harvard. This memoir offers both an insider’s perspective on the unique culture of Ultimate, focusing on the 1980s and 1990s, and a poignant account of an aspiring writer as he transitions to manhood. Along the way, Gessner pays homage to the sport’s pioneers, including Hall of Famers Kenny Dobyns and Steve “Moons” Mooney, and details classic battles between rival teams. The history of Ultimate may be young compared with basketball and football, but now that it’s being considered for inclusion in the 2024 Summer Olympics, it’s sure to gain a bigger stage. An important contribution to the history of Ultimate—not a “hippie-dippie” activity but an exciting sport requiring tremendous athleticism worthy of respect. — Brenda Barrera

“Gessner’s enthusiasm is unmistakable, and there’s much to commend the story as a case in point of how a kid, once finding his or her métier, can make of a pastime a life-transforming experience.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The history of Ultimate Frisbee had not yet been written by one who was there, there for the ugly, early, drunken days when men first turned to themselves and one another and asked whether a modified form of football could be played using flying discs, and answered, ‘Yes!,’ or didn’t answer, just started playing it, running and drinking and running. Gessner has come for the game that made him great. Read it.” —John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead

“In Ultimate Glory, David Gessner lets loose a barbaric yawp, akin to Whitman’s in Song of Myself: “I was the man, I suffered, I was there.” Read it for all the hucks and layouts, for the epic batttles between Hostages and Rude Boys, and for its fascinating history of the sport. But even more, read it to hear one of America's most gifted writers sing an unabashed love song to the glory of being alive."
—Patrick Phillips, author of Blood at the Root