M Train by Patti Smith


I don’t tend to read memoirs, but I picked this one up after having read excerpts from her previous book, Just Kids. I haven’t found a book that kept me this excited from beginning to end since maybe Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich, even though it didn’t quite deliver all the goods, but that’s another write-up I probably won’t get to. 

Smith’s book travels as much as she does, across continents, from New York, to Iceland, to Morocco, to Berlin, to Japan; from the West Village to Rockaway Beach; from the present to her time in Michigan raising a family with Fred “Sonic” Smith, former guitar player for the MC5 who died of heart failure in 1994. She mentions many of her favorite things in great detail—Arctic exploration, cafés, Japanese film, favorite authors whose works she’ll read in their entirety, it seems, references to lives of other artists. Memories of her late husband are the most engaging parts of the book, because they seem to me the most personal.

I was left with a renewed sense that the world is a place to explore, and there are many things to do, many things to be excited about, even when we lose people and places we love and move on to other things. These experiences might not necessarily be the same for me or for you as for Smith, but her book makes the world feel like a playground that we should all try to visit with the same sense of wonder and excitement she does.



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