Thursday, August 11, 2016

M Train

M Train
by Patti Smith
Knopf, 2015. 253 pages, Biography

Punk Rock star Patti Smith banks on her previous writing success (Just Kids) with this collection of meandering, almost dream-state, biographical jottings. Though her thoughts and blurred sense of reality meander as she travels across the globe visiting places sacred to her (e.g.: a dilapidated French prison, burial sites of various poets, artists and anarchists), there is one thread that ties these scenes together: her serial patronage of hole-in-the-wall cafes where she drinks copious amounts of coffee and writes (she claims) on napkins. Smith uses cafes and coffee to put her in the mindset to “channel” people of historical or artistic interest, then begins writing about them, and then buys train, plane and/or bus tickets to track down a site of importance to her chosen person. My favorite vignette was about the time Smith joined a meeting of the Continental Drift Club, which is dedicated to the “perpetuation of remembrance” of Alfred Wegener, the man who figured out that continents drift.

Although Smith’s mystic and sometimes pedestrian writing captivated my creative side, I would only recommend this book to a Patti Smith fan, or someone who wants to glean creativity from some of Smith’s muses. There is a certain arrogance to publishing a book that includes so many accounts of what was eaten at meals, and what was worn during walks. I venture that most people who don’t know Patti Smith wouldn’t have the patience to read through all that to get to the next chapter. I’ve added some titles to my must-read list because of the books she praised in this biography. But alas – M Train is not going onto my re-read list.


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