Patti Smith – M Train

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Patti Smith’s Just Kids was a joy to read, a pretty much perfect book about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. It was the rarest of books, one that was revealing, honest and profoundly moving. She’s back again with M Train, a book that’s certainly on a par with the former.

This is a deeply meditative book that allows us into the mind of this great artist. She goes to a local cafe and gets her usual order of brown toast, a small dish of olive oil and black coffee. She sits at the same table every time. When someone sits at her table she imagines how the scene would play out if it was an episode of Midsomer Murders or Luther. This is the kind of thing that we get throughout and it may come across as trivial from another writer but this works brilliantly well as we see her reflections, thoughts and humour.

It feels like we’re really taking a trip with her as we go on journey through her mind and across the world with her. She’s excellent at describing her mood throughout and I really admired her passion and willingness to travel the world to visit the graves of her favourite artists and writers and to leave tributes at particular places. She travels for all kinds of things, going in pursuit of the perfect coffee and sleeping in Frida Kahlo’s bed.

She pats the coffee maker, which ‘sits like a huddled monk’ and wonders why some inanimate objects appear prettier than other. She’s got an attachment to certain objects of significance to her, keeping her father’s chair close by but never sat on. The descriptions of these objects and the emotion attached to them is overwhelming at times and builds across the book and I felt I’d really got to know how her mind ticks as it went along.

She writes lovingly of her husband and how he has been gone from her for far too long. She desires things as they were; the voice of her mother, her children as children and her husband by her side. There’s very much a sense of life lived here and a need to hold on to the past, keeping treasure memories to hand.

She mentions a huge amount of books throughout M Train. She looks for inspiration from them, is intoxicated by them and draws so much out of them. Murukami puts her head astray as she likes certainty and wants answers to her questions. M Train is peppered with thoughts like this and I loved her writing on these books and there’s certainly quite a few I’ll have to get hold of at some point.

She also watches crime shows, likening detectives to poets, sniffing out the last line and wrapping up cases. She sees things in their personality that matches her own and she imitates some of their behaviour. She loves some TV characters as much as her favourite writers or people in real life and mourns their loss when shows come to an end..

I loved this book. It really puts the reader into the head of this remarkable artist and it’s every bit as great as Just Kids. There can be little higher praise than that.

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