M Train is a piece of personal writing from Patti Smith that is both intimate and timeshifting. Beginning in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, the book is a reflection on her world as it is and the world as it was, and for that has a journal feel. Through prose that shifts lucidly through dreams and reality, past and present, we travel to Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico; to the fertile moon terrain of Iceland and the West 4th Street subway station, filled with the sounds of the Velvet Underground after the death of Lou Reed; and more morbidly to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima.
Patti smith is renowned as a writer, performer, and visual artist. Having gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock, she has unsurprisingly 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, W?tt, Babel, Woolgathering, The Coral Sea, and Auguries of Innocence, as well as M Train.
Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s ability and her process, her practice. With meta-elements to the book, it’s a read for those with a creative disposition or any fan of Patti Smith’s writing, be it lyrics or these memoirs. Having only read Woolgathering, M Train seems accessible and relative. With much rumination on her gone husband, Fred Sonic Smith, we get a sense of her loss and closeness of their relationship. A read of intimate measure. There is a sadness to her writing as we read about her loss of this routine to her favourite cafe by the cafe closure. And this is the pinnacle of despondency, when she is offered the chair that she sits on every day.
Fusing loneliness with hope and consolation, with her signature Polaroids interspersed throughout to throw in visual elements to her memoir, M Train is a book that allows us to explore travel, routine, literature, and deep, dark black coffee. Powerfully moving and delicate in prose and style, this book opens the door for a real insight into the mind of Smith, and relationship to Fred.
M Train is out now, published by Bloomsbury.