Author: Patti Smith

Book Review – M Train by Patti Smith

November 19, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 0 Comments

I received this book free from Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – M Train by Patti SmithM Train by Patti Smith
Published by Knopf on October 6th 2015
Pages: 272
Genres: Non-Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Goodreads First Reads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Just Kids

two-stars

From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey into the mind of this legendary artist, told through the prism of cafés and haunts she has visited and worked in around the world.

M Train is a journey through eighteen "stations." It begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. We then travel, through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations: from Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico, to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; from the ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith buys just before Hurricane Sandy hits, to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation, alongside signature memories including her life in Michigan with her husband, guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, whose untimely death was an irremediable loss. For it is loss, as well as the consolation we might salvage from it, that lies at the heart of this exquisitely told memoir, one augmented by stunning black-and-white Polaroids taken by Smith herself. M Train is a meditation on endings and on beginnings: a poetic tour de force by one of the most brilliant multiplatform artists at work today.

‘I’m sure I could write endlessly about nothing. If only I had nothing to say.’

Patti Smith carries us through her esoteric stories of the past and present in this short story/essay collection. M Train reads like an internal journey, a solo exploration. She recalls cafes visited all around the world, writing or simply sitting and reminiscing while drinking an insane amount of coffee that makes my own addiction to caffeine seem laughable. While Smith seems completely content with her own company and the adventures she undertakes alone, there’s still an underlying sadness when recollecting the loved ones she’s lost and the memories that still haunt her.

-What are you writing?
I looked up at her, somewhat surprised. I had absolutely no idea.

Ultimately, this accurately sums up this non-linear story collection. Random, non-cohesive thoughts that bounce around her lifetime from past to present with no indication of time. It is possible for randomness to possess interest and there is no doubt that Patti Smith has led a most interesting life, such as the descriptions of her trip to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni in northwest French Guiana to visit the remains of a French penal colony where criminals were kept. Of all the places in the world to visit though, only Patti Smith would decide to visit an old abandoned prison at the end of the world. Nevertheless, it was interesting, but while it was all very informative and her writing is forever fluid, none of it ever felt as if it had much substance. Her descriptions of her trip to Germany to attend a conference with the Continental Drift Club, of which she is a member strangely enough, were fascinating but then she goes on to describe how on her return trip home she decided to stay in London to binge-watch some crime shows on the BBC. Fascinating and then… not.

Just Kids was stunning and poignant and her writing transported the reader back to a long past period of time. While her writing is still top-notch and her talent is undeniable, M Train was simply too meandering and tangential for my liking. The triviality of these stories are clearly meaningful to her since our experiences in life are what make us who we are today, but the importance is easily lost when not experienced firsthand but only recapped from memory.

‘I believe in life, which one day each of us shall lose. When we are young we think we won’t, that we are different. As a child I thought I would never grow up, that I could will it so. And then I realize, quite recently, that I had crossed some line, unconsciously cloaked in the truth of my chronology.’

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Audiobook Review – Just Kids by Patti Smith

January 10, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 2 Comments

Audiobook Review – Just Kids by Patti SmithJust Kids by Patti Smith
Published by Harper Audio on July 26th 2011
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Goodreads

Also by this author: M Train

five-stars

It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max's Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.

Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.

“‘Nobody sees us as we do, Patti.’ . . . Whenever he said things like that, for a magical space of time, it was as if we were the only two people in the world.”

​Admittedly, I knew next to nothing about Patti Smith or Robert Mapplethorpe before picking up Just Kids. This didn’t prevent me from becoming immediately enthralled in their tale. Patti Smith lived with her parents and slept on a cot in the laundry room until she boarded a bus to New York City with a measly $32 in her pocket. The friends she had planned to stay with had moved but was more serendipitous than she knew because this is where she would first meet Robert Mapplethorpe. Their bond with each other had almost a preternatural feel and was truly extraordinary.

We were Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world.​ ​There were temptations and witches and demons we never dreamed of and there was splendor we only partially imagined. No one could speak for these two young people nor tell with any truth of their days and nights together. Only Robert and I could tell it. Our story, as he called it. And, having gone, he left the task to me to tell it to you.​​

​This is a poetic story about a time that I didn’t personally experience. It’s a time period that would be difficult to fathom yet Patti Smith writes with such crisp clarity that allowed her story to truly come to life. Listening to the audio version of this and hearing Patti Smith personally narrate this was a wonderful way to experience this book. (Listen to a clip here.) Just Kids is a poignant story that showcases the innocence of her life before she became​ ​well​ ​​known by the world. ​It’s a stunning yet haunting dirge to everything that once was and everything that was lost.

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