M Train by Patti Smith

I want to be Patti Smith when I grow up. This has been true for a very long time. As a woman in my early twenties there is no one cooler than Patti Smith the rock’n’roll poet goddess. First wave punk rock has been hugely formative in what I think of as cool, and there weren’t a lot of women in that scene, but Patti Smith was always cooler than any of the boys.

Reading M Train convinced me that I want to be Patti Smith when I get old too. I don’t really know how to describe what this memoir is about. Just Kids was about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, centered in a specific time and place. This is much more wide ranging. It’s about her everyday life. She wakes up, feeds her cats, and walks over to a cafe to read and write. It’s about routines. Sometimes she gets tired of her routines, and has an adventure. She’s a member of a secretive society that holds conferences. She spends time in Europe, and Japan. She reminisces about her husband, the late Fred “Sonic” Smith, and the life they had together.  She falls in love with a house out by Coney Island, but her plans are derailed by hurricane Sandy.

One of my favorite things is how much she loves detective shows, especially The Killing. The tv writers I read all seemed to decide that The Killing was an interesting show that sort of fell apart and didn’t get anywhere, convincing me not to give it a try. Patti Smith loves it so much. She thinks it’s just the most amazing thing, which I don’t understand at all. I sort of want to watch The Killing and try to see what she’s seeing, but it’s also such a nice mystery. Her absolute love of this not necessarily great tv show is so humanizing. It’s perfect and bizarre.

She’s constantly writing about what she’s reading. Her experience reading Murakami inspired me to chose The Wind-up Bird Chronicles as the next book I read. When I pay off my library fines I might check out some French poetry. Reading this makes me want to be the sort of person has opinions about Genet.

One of the threads through the novel was Smith placing a rock at Genet’s grave. There’s more to it than that, but really, you should read it instead of my attempts at summary. She visits a lot of graves of dead writers, and takes photographs. She takes a lot of photographs, just polaroids, searching to capture something elusive. Her pictures are interspersed throughout the text, adding another dimension to the prose.

It’s so beautifully written. It makes me want to read things, and write things. It makes me wish there was more poetry in my life. It’s just gorgeous and hypnotizing. It’s a great book to curl up with. I loved it.

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