After going on Friday night to hear Suzzy Roche read from her new book, Wayward Saints, observing her adoring audience, and later mentioning it to a few friends, who I then learned were long-time fans, I realized I am a bit out it having never heard of her before. Suzzy (pronounce to rhyme with fuzzy) has been a singer and performer for three decades or more, as you, my reader, probably already know. Now, she is also an author. Roche described her new book as a “mother-daughter love story,” and based on the excerpts she read it’s obvious that, like most love stories, there will be some pain for these characters to hurdle along the way, related but perhaps not limited to matters of faith and rock-n-roll. I wanted to buy the book and have her sign it, but the book table ran dry just as it was my turn.
Mostly, what I want to say here is that my husband and I were enchanted with her. Her presence, smile, and energy were amazing. She seemed like a woman of substance. About writing her book, she looked at the audience squarely and said, “I’m 55 years old and I have something to say.” I like when an author believes she has something to say and is not just in love with her own voice.
In between reading excerpts from the book, she picked up her guitar and sang. One of the songs she sang was a prayer written by Mary Gordon, which she put to music and recorded on her CD, Why the Long Face.It’s called “Prayer for Those Whose Work is Invisible.” Aside from the fact that it was beautiful, it caught my attention because my current book in progress--and nearing completion--is on the topic of “work.” One of the essays in the book is called “First Author, et al, Aud Infinitum” and is about exactly that, work that is hidden.
Here are the prayer’s lyrics (written by Mary Gordon*):
For those who paint the underside of boats,
Makers of ornamental drains on roofs too high to be seen;
For cobblers who labor over inner soles;
For seamstresses who stitch the wrong side of linings;
For scholars whose research leads to no obvious discovery;
For dentists who polish each gold surface of the fillings of upper molars;
For sewer engineers and those who repair water mains;
For artists who suppress what does injustice to their visions;
For surgeons whose sutures are things of beauty.
For all those whose work is for Your eyes only,
who labor for Your entertainment, or their own,
who sleep in peace or do not sleep in peace,
knowing that their effects are unknown.
Protect them from downheartedness and from diseases of the eye.
Grant them perseverance, for the sake of Your love,
which is humble, invisible and heedless of reward.
(*Note: This prayer is from “Six Prayers,” by Mary Gordon in God Is Love: Essays From Portland Magazine. Brian Doyle, ed. Augsburg, 2003.)
Roche mentioned that she and Gordon are working on a larger similar project, putting to music a group of prayers that Gordon wrote (“Prayers and Lamentations”) for The Paris Review. I look forward to that project’s completion.