I may have loved this more than Just Kids, mainly because it is not a natural successor to that book. Patti Smith has written a gorgeous, impressionistic, and very moving rumination on loss and grief, loneliness and solitude. And books and coffee — lots of books and coffee. These are two necessities — figuring out what books to bring along can be more of a challenge than packing the right clothes for a trip, and coffee is essential to her daily rituals.
Take time with this book. It's a slight volume, but the writing is the writing of a poet: dreamlike, musical, sometimes rhythmic. Recommended By Sandy M., Powells.com
In Patti Smith's second memoir, M Train, she muses on everyday obsessions such as coffee, art, cafes, and literature — recounting stories of how they've shaped her past and present. Complete with Polaroid photos, M Train is a poetic and intimate look at Smith's life and loves. Recommended By Jen C., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids
: an unforgettable odyssey of a legendary artist, told through the prism of the cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world. It is a book Patti Smith has described as "a roadmap to my life."
M Train 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. 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 multiplatform artists at work today.
"Iconic poet, writer, and artist Smith articulates the pensive rhythm of
her life through the stations of her travels. In a Greenwich Village
cafe sipping coffee, jotting quixotic notes in journals, and ‘plotting
my next move,’ the author reflects on the places she’s visited, and the
impact each played on her past and present selves.... No matter the distance life may take her, Smith
always recovers some semblance of normalcy with the simple pleasures of a
deli coffee on her stoop, her mind constantly buoyed by humanity, art,
and memory.... An atmospheric, moody, and bittersweet memoir, to be
savored and pondered." Kirkus Reviews
"Following Smith’s critically acclaimed Just Kids, M Train
creates a map of the singer-songwriter’s peripatetic journeys to cafés,
cemeteries, hotels, and train stations around the world. She is the
perfect guide, revealing the mysteries in the shadows, the little bits
of life people often take for granted—such as a good cup of coffee, a
familiar coat, or the 'transformation of the heart.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Achingly beautiful...a kaleidoscopic ballad about the losses dealt out by time and chance and circumstance.... If Just Kids was about starting out as an artist and setting forth in the world, M Train
feels more like a look at the past through a rearview mirror.... An
eloquent—and a deeply moving—elegy for what she has ‘lost and cannot
find’ but can remember in words." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Sublime. Smith, poet and shaman, [is] an American icon, a vagabond
child of rock ’n’ roll who fused it with her own, fiercely honest poetry." John Heilpern, Vanity Fair
"A book of memory. Smith gives spirituality to coffee—this book is an
ode to it—a 'post-Beat meditation' on Smith's 'substance of choice.' The
objects of M Train are full of life. As Smith ages, so does the totemic power that surrounds her." Anna Heyward, T, The New York Times Style Magazine
"Smith’s lyrical prose is potent...insightful. She clearly knows
herself. She is a survivor in every sense of the word. Her grappling
with loss pours out of the book. The title begs the question: Where does
the M Train go? Nowhere. And, everywhere. Perhaps I naively
believed that Patti Smith had all the answers. She doesn’t. Like all of
us, she harbors confusions, gets grumpy without coffee, and holds
fascinations with certain people and things. She probes the peculiar
depths of human listlessness. It’s worth settling down with this book
and a cup of joe." Paula Mejia, Newsweek
"Engaging...poetic and unconventional." Details
"Wonderful...M Train is about being lost and found. It weaves
poetry, dreams, art, literature, and conversational fragments into a
phantasmagoric, atmospheric, and transportive whole." The Boston Globe
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.