M Train – Patti Smith
Transportive. Delectably imaginative. Easy to pick up, hard to put down. Completely immersive. Deliriously inspiring. I want to crawl inside and live here forever. Forget punctuation and plot – who needs it?
My father claimed that he never remembered his dreams, but I could easily recount mine. He also told me that seeing one’s own hands within a dream was exceedingly rare. I was sure I could if I set my mind to it, a notion that resulted in a plethora of failed experiments. My father questioned the usefulness of such a pursuit, but nevertheless invading my own dreams topped my list of impossible things one must one day accomplish. ~ p.81, M Train – Patti Smith
This passage! Smith just gets me, even though all I knew about her while reading the book were the facts in the author bio at the back of the book: her marriage and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I wondered if she only wrote poetry and took polaroids. Did she write music? Had I heard any of it? (obviously, I have, but I am notoriously bad at remembering artist and band names. Lyrics are my strong suit.)
All of the people she mentions I know by name, yet they are all strangers to me. Burroughs, Wittgenstein, Rackham, Bulgakov, Wegener, Camus, Ibsen, Plath, Genet, and many others I’m sure. As I read I wondered if getting to know these people would make me a better writer. Smith already has.
When I finished it, all I could think about was what a journey it was. I wanted to start it over immediately, and did, and was again transported to that place between dreams and reality. Much like Smith’s obsession with The Wind-Up Bird, I just wanted to dive back in. I had a copy from my local library, but I actually went out and purchased a copy of my own yesterday so I can continue to pour over its pages. The writing is phenomenal. I rarely enjoy works written in the first person, but this memoir of sorts is executed to near perfection.
I found that I didn’t even mind the strangeness of moments in the story where Smith actively mentions that she “Closed her notebook and sat in the cafe thinking about real time.” How do we know that’s what she did if she wasn’t writing down her thoughts? Obviously, her notebook was closed. Still, the fluidity of the book allows for this kind of endeavor. The ‘story’ plays out in black and white almost as if we are watching it through her polaroids. I wondered whether, if I pushed on their surface, they would grant me entry.
This is one of those books my children are going to find on my desk, dog-eared and falling to bits because it has been read and loved so much. I often had the realization while reading that I had been thinking of a dozen things, set off by a passage I had read 30 minutes ago, the book lying on my lap in quiet anticipation, perfectly happy to wait for me to come back down to reality and continue to wade through its pages.
HHC Rating: 5 Stars