The Susanna Hoffs book event for the release of her new book ‘This Bird Has Flown” was my second time at an event at The Strand Bookstore in New York City but my first time in their rare books room, think a library in a mansion but with fairy lights and a cash register. I excitedly hoped to finally get to meet and thank Susanna for years of incredible music but that dream was crushed when a pre-signed copy of her book was handed to me at entry. No book signing, but there was the promise of a special musical performance and secret surprise moderator to look forward to. I was thinking maybe the moderator would be one of the other Bangles, perhaps Matthew Sweet who she did albums with, or possibly a New York celeb like Sandra Bernhard (in my wildest dreams). When a literary podcaster was announced as moderator, I didn’t catch her name (sure, I could research it, but this ain’t Wikipedia) because the voices in my head were screaming “Who’d they say? Who’s that? Should we get a vegan doughnut after this?
Susanna was super sweet, funny and when she sang a couple of The Bangles hits and a few covers, her voice was perfection. The musical performance was the highlight and totally made the trip worth it. Susanna and the podcaster talked about the book in detail, which was a spoiler for the first 50 pages, thankfully the discussion ended before they got to the book’s ending. There was an audience Q&A where Susanna talked about her love of cover songs, her book’s inspirations, and her fear of flying. I wish I had read the book before the Q&A because I would have had tons of questions about more parallels between her main character’s life and her own.
Afterwards, since the store was closed, we had to exit down three floors via a back stairwell which was very behind the scenes and a bit creepy. Thirty to forty people were milling around outside with their Bangles LPs, 8X10’s and me with my When You’re A Boy CD (in my gay opinion, one of the best albums ever) in hopes of having a sec of her time when she left the building. There were two exits so I stood on the corner (not my first time) to scope them out. Susanna was quickly rushed out the side entrance into a waiting SUV without stopping. The crowd circled the vehicle even in the street (not me, I know that won’t stop a cabbie, I wasn’t going to be the first or last person they ran over that day) and when the SUV took off down the road, the mob chased after it and a few almost caught up to it at the next light. I was able to hold on to the hood until they hit that damn pot hole…yeah right, I wish I had that much follow-through.
Alas, I walked back to my train with only my signed copy of “This Bird Has Flown” and some great memories. The book itself, is a rom-com (heavier on the rom but with a few laugh-out-loud moments) centered around one-hit-wonder pop star Jane Start, who is past her prime in pop years at 34, as she rebounds from a recent breakup and tries to reignite her career in order to keep from having to move in with her parents. The story is told from Jane’s quirky and sometimes random point-of-view, which is where many of the laughs come in. She’s juggling a new guy she just made out with on a plane and preparing for a sold-out show with a musical icon she has a past with. As with all good rom-coms, you know all will work out in the end, but who doesn’t love a happy ending? The story does take a few unexpected twists and turns, and is just as enjoyable and well-written as a Susanna Hoffs song.
Speaking of songs and happy endings, at the same time as her book dropped, Susanna quietly released a new album of covers called The Deep End. I assume they’re covers because of her appreciation of them and a few have a familiar sound, but again, I’m no researcher. The Deep End is the perfect showcase for Susanna’s retro-pop, adult contemporary sound. The album basks in Susanna’s distinctive voice and perky vibe, it’s a total feel good album. The thirteen-track album feels like a companion to “This Bird Has Flown” because many of the songs were chapter titles and are all about struggling with relationships and falling in love, which is the whole Jane Start experience.