Reading this book provided a meditative type of joy, and also reassured me that there is nothing wrong with my coffee habit. —Recommended by Stacey, City Lights Publishers
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.
"Captivating . . . rich, varied. How to mourn for what's lost without allowing loss to take over? While leaving space for what’s lost to return in an old or new form? These are the questions at the heart of M Train, [which] takes us on a journey through the 'stuff’ of Smith’s bookshelves and suitcases, as well as of her mind and memory . . . M Train embraces the fragment—moments of reverie [that] arise from the mundane. Integrated into the text are Polaroid photographs [that are] in productive tension with the text, as in the novels of W.G. Sebald, whose work Smith greatly admires. While it is perhaps a cliché to call such a book 'dream-like,’ M Train truly moves with the logic of dreams, and Smith gives equal consideration to her dreams as she does to her waking experience. But what makes M Train feel most like a dream is its slippery, mystical relationship to time. Smith imbues it with such a haze that she appears to board a plane to Berlin as seamlessly as she walks to the corner deli. This loose relationship to time allows [her] to appreciate aspects of the contemporary world through an anachronistic lens; it’s as if Smith is enamored with the present moment insomuch as it allows her access to the past . . . Smith is all too aware that much of what gets lost is irreplaceable: 'Please stay forever, I say to the things I know. Don’t go. Don’t grow.’ The journey of M Train through Smith’s 'stuff,’ we come to understand, is itself an incantation of this plea." —Sara Jaffe, San Francisco Chronicle
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, includingHorses, 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.