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M Train Paperback – Deckle Edge, August 23, 2016
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“This book is brilliant. A poetic, energetic search for the secret links between life and art—and coffee.” —Henning Mankell
“An eloquent—and a deeply moving—elegy for what she has ‘lost and cannot find’ but can remember in words.” —The New York Times
“Elegiac, melancholic, and meditative, filled with wistful flashbacks and haunting Polaroid snapshots.” —NPR
“Begins in a tiny Greenwich Village cafe and ends as a dream requiem to the same place, encompassing an entire lost world. . . . Yet despite all of these losses, there is extraordinary joy here. . . . Readers who share in Smith’s transcendent pilgrimage may find themselves reborn within the pages of this exquisite memoir.” —The Washington Post
“Weaves poetry, dreams, art, literature, and conversational fragments into a phantasmagoric, atmospheric, and transportive whole. . . . Brilliant. . . . Where Just Kids concerned Smith’s hopefulness, hunger, callowness, and loss, M Train is about being lost and found.” —The Boston Globe
“M Train is a great meditation on solitude, independence, age, a ride-along with the last Romantic standing. . . . Patti Smith inventories her inspirations, and makes her house out of the life lived, out of the love spent.” —USA Today
“M Train comes near to accomplishing Marcel Proust’s goal to follow the workings of the human mind and the human heart. By the end of the book you know that nothing is everything, and that life is a labor of love.” —Harper’s Bazaar
“[Smith] opens her extraordinary heart and soul to us, holding nothing back and never permitting vanity to intrude. It’s a gift, this record of beloved absences, to which one can only respond: thank you.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“M Train is an impressionistic weave of dreams, disasters, and epiphanies, a meditation on life and art by a woman who sees them as one.” —Rolling Stone
“A sublime collection of true stories concerning irredeemable loss, memory, travel, crime, coffee, books, and wild imaginings that take us to the very heart of who Patti Smith is.” —Vanity Fair
“Marvelous . . . M Train is a book of days, a year in the life, a series of reflections. . . . The message is that living is a kind of invocation, or better yet, a form of prayer.” —Los Angeles Times
About the Author
Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone.
Smith had her first exhibit of drawings at the Gotham Book Mart in 1973 and has been represented by the Robert Miller Gallery since 1978. Her books include Just Kids, winner of the National Book Award in 2010, Wītt, Babel, Woolgathering, The Coral Sea, and Auguries of Innocence.
In 2005, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Smith the title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honor given to an artist by the French Republic. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
Smith married the musician Fred Sonic Smith in Detroit in 1980. They had a son, Jackson, and a daughter, Jesse. Smith resides in New York City.
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Top Customer Reviews
It got a little better, but I continued to feel like I didn't really know where she was or who she was talking about a lot of the time. There were a number of paragraphs I had to read over and over again to track where we were: the equivalent of talking to someone who's speaking almost inaudibly or with a thick, unusual accent. I felt like I was squinting my eyes and craning my neck to track her conversation.
There's no doubt of her being a brilliant wordsmith and poet, and that she has shared her grief in a poetic and deep way.
At the end of the story, I was disappointed that after all the poignant mentions about her husband Fred and after I, the reader, proving my interest and investment by hanging in there till the end of the book she doesn't share with us what happened. I felt let down.
To assuage my disappointment, I googled Fred Smith and learned this (which helped me to have completion):
"In 1976, firebrand rock poetess Patti Smith visited Detroit while touring behind her album Radio Ethiopia, and was introduced to Fred Sonic Smith at a party held at Lafayette Coney Island, one of the city's most celebrated hot dog stands. While Fred Smith was married at the time, he and Patti immediately hit it off, and before long a low-key romance blossomed between them. By 1978, Fredwas once again single, and he and Patti were free to go public with their relationship. In 1980, Fredand Patti were married; Sonic's Rendezvous Band had recently broken up, and after a calamitous European tour following the release of her album, Wave, Patti opted to retire from touring. The couple moved to St. Clair Shores, a suburb of Detroit, and quietly settled down to raise a son and a daughter away from the media spotlight and the rigors of a musician's life. Both Patti and Fred continued to write music together, and in 1986, Patti came out of retirement to record the album Dream of Life. Fred wrote much of the material in collaboration with Patti, played guitar on the album, and helped to produce the sessions. In a 1996 interview, Patti said, "Dream of Life was really more Fred's record -- it was all Fred's music, Fred's philosophy." Though it featured the anthemic "People Have the Power," a song that would become a highlight of Patti's live shows, Dream of Life failed to find an audience, despite strong reviews. Sadly, it would prove to be one of Fred's last major projects. In the late '80s, his health went into decline, and on November 9, 1994, Fred Sonic Smith died of heart failure in a Detroit hospital -- ironically, the same malady that took the life of MC5 vocalist Rob Tyner two years earlier." [http://www.allmusic.com/artist/fred-sonic-smith-mn0000176087]
Ultimately, I felt that while Patti has shared deep, intrapsychic treasure with us, she isn't intimate or relational with us, her readers.
There was depth, and there was great, though vague, beauty. A lot of literary name-dropping, and her deepest relationships in the story appear to be with the dead or with inanimate objects (a coat, stones, coffee). I'll be pondering this one for a while.
All of that said, Patti Smith is a deep, unique artist in a soul-less age. For that, I am deeply grateful.
Maybe I liked this strange book because in some ways Smith's experiences run parallel to mine, so that her memories set fire to mine and I found myself exclaiming out loud from time to time. The book loops around and loops around but in the end, she wraps up this package with a gentle ribbon of her humility and humanity.