I will freely admit that I am a late bloomer to Patti Smith. I'd heard of her and her music for years, yet never took the time to listen to her music or look at her other forms of art. That all changed this year, when I finally listened to the album, Horses, while at work. Thirty minutes later, I was a devoted fan. However, her music is nothing compared to her writing. M Train, her latest book, is quite the read.
The book is made up of her travels, both solo and with friends, that serve as windows into her explorations. From visiting the long abandoned prison that inspired Jean Genet, to speaking of her time with William S. Burroughs, M Train is one long love poem from Smith to the world she inhabits. Of curse, she does lose her pea coat in the process, discover (and devour) Haruki Murakami, visit a cafe in which the tables and floors are wiped down with fragrant tea, all the while still having time to enjoy her black coffee as much as possible.
Although this is a slim read, M Train does not need to be read in one afternoon. I found myself taking notes on books to read just because they affected her so much. I did smile when she mentioned reading W. G. Sebald - he's one of my favourite authors. When she wrote about chamomile tea (see above photo), I immediately took a picture of the section and posted it on Instagram. Her words are like her songs without the music. You just need to listen. I have a list of books and authors to explore very soon, thanks to her. In fact, I finally purchased copies of two of Murakami's books, just because she talked about her experience with him, not to mention several of my close friends who LOVE his work. I hope to no longer be a "Murakami virgin", as one of my friends put it.
Her photographs are sprinkled throughout the book; not flashy or "trying too hard". They simply are. When I read the section about her seeing items owned by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera as well as her photos, I felt a twinge of jealousy. Although she has lived quite a different life than I, she was able to experience things that I have only thought and hoped for. However, and I'm going to end the review with this thought - the world that Smith speaks of is still here. Even with the tragedy and pain that she experienced while writing this book, Smith still lived.
All we have to do, like her, is open ourselves to what the world has to offer.