Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Review: A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties, by Suze Rotolo

Reading Suze Rotolo’s A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties was definitely a trip down memory lane for me. While a lot of the book covers stuff that happened in the Village before I was hanging out there (I started hanging out there on my 18th birthday in 1972), I recognize (and have met) many of the artists, writers, and other denizens of Greenwich Village during the time Ms. Rotolo speaks of. Almost every sentence brings back some memory of a time that formed me and the values I live by to this day.

It’s possible, of course, that these memories color my opinion of the book. I make no bones about that. Still, it was a wonderful ride – and Ms. Rotolo gives enough actual information about places that I can follow the history of some of my favorite clubs and hangouts (not to mention where some of my favorite performers lived) that the maps in my head of the Village at that time have become much more detailed. She also looks at how she, Dylan, and others interacted, removing some of the “stars” from my eyes, but helping me create more complete mental pictures of folks who either influenced me or actually helped me grow into the person I am.

In addition to being very enlightening and entertaining, this is an incredibly thoughtful book, in which Ms. Rotolo draws together many threads to create a unified whole. She looks at the influences both she and Dylan shared, and how they fit into their lives and world views. She discusses how they shared influences from their pasts and how — when combined with Dylan’s commitment to exploring and experimenting — those influences helped Dylan develop his unique style.

If you lived in the Village during the 1960s or 1970s, or even just visited it or hung out there, I think you will find this an important book. I think it will also be of interest to those readers who are fond of NYC history, the history of folk music in NYC, and the way neighborhoods evolve. 

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