In M Train, we experience a recent year in the life of the "godmother of punk" who has the soul of a Romantic poet. Smith begins her narrative with a statement made by a figure from her dreams: "It's not so easy writing about nothing. . . . But we keep on going, he continued, fostering all kinds of crazy hopes. To redeem the lost, some sliver of personal revelation." Guided by her prose and photographs, we follow her pilgrimage among cafes, hotels, the houses and graves of beloved authors and artists, and fluidly through time from present to past to dream time. We get sometimes oblique, sometimes head-on and painfully honest glimpses of Smith's own great loves and losses. Along with her, we experience the simple consolation of a good cup of black coffee, a favorite detective show. Most importantly, we learn about Smith's truest calling as an author, one easy to overlook in the glare of her fame as a rock musician. She fills her own story with allusions to the stories of others, saying, "Writers and their process. Writers and their books. I cannot assume the reader will be familiar with them all, but in the end is the reader familiar with me? Does the reader wish to be so? I can only hope, as I offer my world on a platter filled with allusions. As one held by the stuffed bear in Tolstoy's house, an oval platter that was once overflowing with the names of callers, infamous and obscure, small carte de visite, many among the many."
What do you think? In the end, are you familiar with Smith? Did you find that you have any interests and experiences, hopes and consolations in common with her? What has been your truest calling in life? What pilgrimages have you made? What have you lost? What remains?
We hope you will join the discussion: Tuesday, December 6, at 6:30 p.m. at Main Library; Thursday, December 15, at 11:00 a.m. at West Ashley Branch Library; and here on the blog.
Keep up with Patti Smith at http://www.pattismith.net/intro.html.