“Memory is a Fickle Beast!” ~ Suze Rotolo

Rotolo, an artist and teacher, grew up in Queens. She began dating Dylan in the early 1960s, after meeting him at a marathon folk-music concert at the Riverside Church in New York City. She was 17 at the time.

Suze Rotolo and Bob Dylan

Suze Rotolo, artist, poet and teacher and Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin’ muse has just died of lung cancer (February 25, 2011). A beautiful writer in her own right, Rotolo has left behind a memoir where she not only reflects upon her brief time with Dylan in the early 1960s folk scene in Greenwich Village, she takes a closer look at the nature of memory. Here are a few excerpts from both her NPR interview with Terry Gross and from her memoir A Freewheelin’ Time.

“I acknowledge that memory is a fickle beast. Fragments of stories stride in and out; some leave traces, while others do not. Secrets remain. Their traces go deep, and with all due respect I keep them with my own. The only claim I make for writing a memoir of that time is that it may not be factual, but it is true….

“I see history as a reliquary—a container where relics are kept and displayed for contemplation. So much has been written about the sixties that the more distant those years become, the more mythic the tales and the time seem to be. Facts and statistics are pliable. Truth and accuracy are truly Rashomon-like. Each story is true from the teller’s perspective; the weight shifts. My decision to add my relics was not an easy one. Hindsight meddles with memory, after all, so the best I can do in writing about those long-ago years is to try to make them recognizable.

“The stories I tell are about my place within that time and about the early years that made me who I was when I migrated from Queens, New York, to Greenwich Village. The backstory has to be considered: where my family came from, who they were, and all the other bits and pieces that make a person whole. I reminisce to the best of my ability.

“The 1960s were an amazing time, an eventful time of protest and rebellion. An entire generation had permission to drink alcohol and die in a war at eighteen, but it had no voting voice until the age of twenty- one. Upheaval was inevitable. Talk made music, and music made talk. Action was in the civil rights marches, marches against the bomb, and marches against an escalating war in Vietnam. It was a march out of a time, too—out of the constricted and rigid morality of the 1950s. The Beats had already cracked the façade and we, the next generation, broke through it.

“Traveling with the past within us, we were ready to roll into the future. It has now become a historical time made up of many personal stories, songs, and sidebars. There are many reliquaries from that era in American life. This is mine.”

Read entire NPR review here.

From A Freewheelin’ Time by Suze Rotolo, published by Broadway Books.

A key feature that I find in all good memoirs shines through when the writer explores her own life through the lens of a third thing, i.e., writer’s memories, the relevance of her reflections to the would-be reader and, finally, the writer’s particular moment in time. Suze Rotolo does all three of these things.

From the back of Suze Rotolo’s A Freewheelin’ Time the readers find ample motivation to give this book their undivided attention.

“This 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 womens 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.”

Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary book coaching session via email: AuthorizeU@gmail.com.  If we begin working together, my eBook—Writing From Life: A Wise Guide to Publishing Your Memoirs—will be yours as part of the coaching package.


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