A Freewheelin' Time
A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties
By Suze Rotolo
Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780767926881, 370pp.
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
List Price: $16.00*
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A great read for fans of the Coen brothers' film, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
A Freewheelin’ Time is Suze Rotolo’s firsthand, eyewitness, participant-observer account of the immensely creative and fertile years of the 1960s, just before the circus was in full swing and Bob Dylan became the anointed ringmaster. It chronicles the back-story of Greenwich Village in the early days of the folk music explosion, when Dylan was honing his skills and she was in the ring with him.
A shy girl from Queens, Suze Rotolo was the daughter of Italian working-class Communists. Growing up at the start of the Cold War and during McCarthyism, she inevitably became an outsider in her neighborhood and at school. Her childhood was turbulent, but Suze found solace in poetry, art, and music. In Washington Square Park, in Greenwich Village, she encountered like-minded friends who were also politically active. Then one hot day in July 1961, Suze met Bob Dylan, a rising young musician, at a folk concert at Riverside Church. She was seventeen, he was twenty; they were young, curious, and inseparable. During the years they were together, Dylan was transformed from an obscure folk singer into an uneasy spokesperson for a generation.
Suze Rotolo’s story is rich in character and setting, filled with vivid memories of those tumultuous years of dramatic change and poignantly rising expectations when art, culture, and politics all seemed to be conspiring to bring our country a better, freer, richer, and more equitable life. She writes of her involvement with the civil rights movement and describes the sometimes frustrating experience of being a woman in a male-dominated culture, before women’s liberation changed the rules for the better. And she tells the wonderfully romantic story of her sweet but sometimes wrenching love affair and its eventual collapse under the pressures of growing fame.
A Freewheelin’ Time is a vibrant, moving memoir of a hopeful time and place and of a vital subculture at its most creative. It communicates the excitement of youth, the heartbreak of young love, and the struggles for a brighter future.
Advance Praise for A Freewheelin’ Time:
“Suze Rotolo and I must have crossed each others' paths countless times on those downtown New York streets during the post-Beat years when the area was a Mecca for the young and the quirky and the gifted. This was a magic era. Now the last of its funky monuments are being leveled by condo-ization, but its spirit persists strongly in Suze Rotolo. What a wonderful kid she must have been—brave, openhearted, keenly observant and preternaturally wise, able to rise to the challenge of loving a genius like Bob Dylan and knowing when to let go. I'm glad I finally got to meet her in these pages.”
—Joyce Johnson, author of Minor Characters
“Suze Rotolo digs hard and deep. Then she strolls, frets, and paints a gorgeous picture of a singular place and a time that was simpler but all tangled up. Best of all, she’s a natural writer who puts the beguiling voice, skeptical brow, shining eyes, and conductor’s hands I know right before you on the printed page. What’s her secret?” —Sean Wilentz
"A welcome, page-turning perspective conspicuously absent from the plethora of books on Dylan and the folk era of the 1960s: that of a woman witnessing it all from its cultural and political epicenter." —Todd Haynes, screenwriter and director of I’m Not There
“There have been a lot of books written about Greenwich Village in the sixties,and I've probably read all of them. What makes Suze's story so special is that she grew up in this neighborhood and she still lives here. She knows these crooked streets intimately, and they know her.” —Steve Earle