Monday, September 28, 2015

Patti Smith: 'It's not so easy writing about nothing'

M Train tells the story of Patti Smith's musical creativity. She was such an influential part of the punk rock movement that it’s easy to forget she had influences of her own. Her new memoir M Train follows the journey that led her to create her most iconic work. The “train” in this memoir stops at 18 “stations,” each representing one of the most significant turning points in Smith’s life, that she believes were responsible for shaping her creative identity.

M Train begins in the tiny Greenwich Village cafe 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. Through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, and across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations, we travel to Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico; to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; to a ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith acquires just before Hurricane Sandy hits; and to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation. Here, too, are singular memories of Smith's life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith. Braiding despair with hope and consolation, illustrated with her signature Polaroids, M Train is a meditation on travel, detective shows, literature and coffee. It is a powerful, deeply moving book by one of the most remarkable artists at work today.

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