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A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties (Thorndike Press Large Print Biography Series)

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Suze Rotolo

In July 1961, Rotolo, a shy 17-year-old from Queens, met an up-and-coming young folk singer named Bob Dylan at an all-day folk festival at Riverside Church in Manhattan, and her life changed forever. For the next few years, Suze and Bobby lived a freewheeling … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Suze Rotolo
Publisher: Thorndike Press
1 review about A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich...

There was music in the cafés at night and revolution in the air

  • Jun 3, 2009
Dylan's lyric from "Tangled up in Blue" came immediately to mind as I read Suze Rotolo's gentle meandering memoir of those heady days in the first years of the 60s when life and Dylan were young and folk and music were pure. It now seems a brief intermission of peace and purity between the sanitized and sedated nirvana of the 50s and the drugged and violent explosion of the rest of the 60's. Dylan tells how he responded, as "Tangled up in Blue" continues:

And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn,
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew,
Tangled up in blue.

Interestingly, in performance, Dylan has constantly reworked the lyrics for the song, adding and dropping verses and changing pronouns as he deals very personally with the things around him.

Rotolo's book has the same feel. It isn't a straight-line autobiography, certainly not of the tell-all variety. I get the feeling from her, as from Dylan, that at times she reveals to conceal, and that is in her control, not ours. The difference is that while Dylan and Rotolo were both so young and insecure in those days (as we see in the few pictures in the book which left me wanting more), Dylan was insecure from a position of emotional strength because of his grounded childhood; Rotolo was insecure from a position of emotional weakness from her more difficult childhood. She talks about her father's early death, her mother's drinking problem, her parents' Communist political leanings that sometimes resulted in financial hardships and a less rooted childhood.

Rotolo's writing voice is gentle and appealing, with a subtle sense of humor, directed toward herself as often as others. At times though, I felt the wall of insulation of her insecurity were too high for her to write over and reach us with her true story and personality. It feels almost like a third-person narrative at times, which in fact is how she herself felt as her relationship with Dylan deteriorated and she heard his response in lyrics that the world found poetic, deep, and inspirational. Breaking up with the voice of a generation is truly hard to do.

Now that Rotolo has worked through the emotional challenges of this memoir and painted her masterpiece in impressionist watercolors, perhaps she can go back to a second volume and tell us more of those vibrant days, this time opening and annotating a photo album and scrapbook with us and sharing the strong colors and sharp edges of those photographs of young faces and places in that time so much alive. Then again, if she does not, I can understand and respect that. Suze, you are now strong and secure, you owe us nothing, and we love you for it.

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