About six months ago I got a call from an editor inquiring about Susan Connell-Mettaur. He had discovered her writing on this site and wanted to know more about her. His taste is literary and eclectic. One of his pet subjects, as an editor and writer, is the sixties. It made sense that her writing had caught his eye. He wanted to know if she was working on a book, and thought her pieces could be the start of one.
I passed this news on. I didn’t expect effusion, exactly, but I felt this would be happy-making.
“Interesting,” was her response. Just that one word. She sounded not so much excited as amused, somehow, as though there was some irony to the timing. But there is always an odd aura of irony around intense news, good or bad. “Why now?” one always asks. Maybe I had just read into her tone of voice, I thought, and decided not to press the matter.
As it turns out there was something going on. I recently got the news that Susan Connell-Metauer passed away this past spring, about four months after we last spoke. The person who told me did not specify the cause of death, but in reading her pieces one can get some clues.
I didn’t know her very well, but she was a regular contributor to this publication early on, and helped establish its tone and style. Her pieces often looked back to intense episodes of her life when she was living on the Lower East Side. They were wild, almost asphyxiating experiences involving drugs and sex and grasping towards love. Reading them one was both nervous somehow for the fragility of the protagonist, Susan, back then, and impressed with the calm, impassive, clear eyed take on it from her current vantage point.
It’s always gratifying to see someone hit their stride doing pieces for this site. But as I said, we were not close and I didn’t know her life beyond what was in these pieces. We spoke on the phone several times over the years. Once, there was a reading in Boston scheduled for the “Before and After: Stories from New York” book but instead I went out to San Francisco to attend the Webby awards, where Mrbellersneighborhood.com was nominated in the print and zine catagory. She filled in as MC in Boston. This was 2002. The Webby awards – could there be a goofier name? – were held at the the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, a grand, beautiful, slightly fascist looking campus overlooking the water. We didn’t win (salon.com did), though I did get to see the two Google guys dressed (pre-IPO) in matching track suits, a kind of geek RUN-DMC look.
After our category came and went, I went outside to peer at the view and call Susan. I was three hours behind, the Boston reading had already happened. She said it went well. I found her temperament, like her writing, to be ideally suited to this enterprise– whimsical, respectful of the fates, but caring about it, too–that edge of unrealistic commitment that you see in writers. She said that an old high school friend of mine came and seemed put out I was not there. We laughed about this. Her cool delivery on the phone matched up well with sight of the San Francisco landscape rolling down to the dusk-lit water. That is the image I associate with her now.