Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Awesome Literary Saga with Suzzy Roche...

In a recent Boston Globe article, writer extraordinaire Amy Sutherland interviewed Suzzy Roche about reading. The occasion was the publication of Suzzy's first novel, Wayward Saints, and it was an insightful look into an often neglected aspect of a writer's life - reading! It was my extreme honor to have "The Missionary and the Brute" mentioned and referred to as "a page-turner" alongside others of Suzzy's current and favorite reads. To even be listed in such proximity to Larry McMurtry, Eleanor Henderson, JM Coetzee, and Meg Wolitzer is humbling. And so appreciated!

That it came from Suzzy is even more exceptional to me. I have been a huge fan of Suzzy for as long as I can remember. As a member of the legendary Roches she first caught my ear singing "The Married Men" on Mimi Farina's Bread & Roses album. I was instantly hooked. That hookage deepened for me when the Roches appeared on Saturday Night Live doing an a cappella version of the Hallelujah Chorus. It was a reveltory moment for me that I have always equated with the performance of the Star Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. It was that amazing - ballsy - exquisite - and flat out brilliant.

You know - like Suzzy.

I quickly became a huge fan of the Roches and especially of Suzzy. At one time or another I have owned the complete collection both together and solo and everything in between. (Some of my LPs have since bitten the dust). When I worked at a movie theatre as a projectionist way back when I used to play Keep on Doing as my preshow music trying to turn on the masses to my personal soundtrack for life.

But mostly for me it was Suzzy. I devoured her solo albums as soon as they came out and reveled in not only the musicality, but the pronounced literary nature of her lyrics. There has always been a consistent wit poised against a backdrop of poignancy in all of her music for me. I was and remain a huge fan. A sheer joy.

In 2007 when I formed Brick by Brick for Tanzania!, Inc. - a non-profit that builds preschools in Tanzania, East Africa - the first group I entreated to perform (i.e., begged!) was the Roches. I immediately got back a personal reply from Suzzy herself. Though the Roches couldn't perform at that first concert, she wrote a beautifully heartfelt message of support that helped inspire me to keep going when it looked bleak. That was so much appreciated.

As the years went on, we kept in touch and the Brick by Brick concerts continued to be important parts of our fundraising efforts. Finally in 2010, Suzzy - along with the incredible multi-instrumentalist - and really great guy, David Mansfield - was able to come perform in our little village in Wisconsin. Not only did she  perform, but she also took a set of lyrics I had laying around and wrote a song for the concert - Bricks across the sea... When they played, I was able to blow my harmonica along with Suzzy and David on our song which was an absolute thrill for me.

We have remained penpals and have swapped many stories over the ages... so it was hardly a surprise when she came out with her first novel, Wayward Saints. Having just received it, I am now eating it up - it is such a delightful read. Talk about your page turners! My gosh. The opening scenes alone are wrought with an observed brilliance and nuance of character that is wonderful to behold. Dialogue is snappy and listenable. Setting is acutely realized. The writing is so crisp and distinct and flat out fun. For me, good writing is often about the voice - and Suzzy's voice is dead on. It is both universal and it is hers. Not easy to do both. I'm sure I'll review it in full later, but thus far - I am simply mesmerized by the wondrous Mary Saint. It is already for me in the first few chapters a brilliant work of art - it is Suzzy.

My life is sometimes strange. People I once admired so much from a far - now write songs with me and say nice things about my own writing... That I remain such a fan is testament only to her extreme ability as an author. I hope she never gives up music - certainly not - but in whatever form her artistic bent takes her - I willingly am going along for the ride.

And so honored to do so.

1 comment:

Laurin Wittig said...

I've been a big fan of the Roches since my college days way too long ago. Can't wait to read Suzzy's book!