Book Review: A Freewheelin' Time: Suze Rotolo
Suze Rotolo's memoir of Greenwich Village in the early sixties, A Freewheelin' Time, is an involving story from the epicenter of a cultural revolution. The ostensible reason most people will read the book is because she was Bob Dylan's girlfriend at the beginning and through his rise to fame, and the book does not disappoint in this respect; however, readers will find many more reasons to enjoy the book along the way because Ms. Rotolo is an insightful person in her own right with a highly informed, reflective take on the cultural earthquake of the sixties. Rotolo's book is a fine companion piece to Dylan's own Chronicles because she offers more by way of particular details, portraits of people, events and politics. While Dylan's work is abstract and lyrical, Rotolo's is more informative. Rotolo's adds two dimensions that are utterly lacking in Dylan's story: early feminism and politics. A young woman's status in the counter-culture, "chick", did not sit easily with Rotolo. She struggled valiantly with the expectation that she be the decorative muse to the great genius. She had a creative life of her own in the theater, art and in politics. It was Rotolo who exposed Dylan to Brecht and radical experiments in theater. Rotolo was raised in a family that took politics seriously and was on the far left-wing of America's political spectrum. In protest of the Kennedy policy that Americans could no longer travel legally to Cuba, Rotolo was one of a small group who travelled there illegally and publicized the journey. Rotolo eventually sours on leftist politics and recognizes the constrictions of doctrine whether it is left or right. Her political, feminist, and artistic selves blend and conflict with her love for Dylan, and the narrative she writes is involving and effectively lands the reader in the middle of life in Greenwich Village in the early sixties at the side of Bobby Zimmerman/Dylan.