M Train by Patti Smith

M Train by Patti Smith

American Memoir

Source – personal copy

A change today I’ve been down a bit so when I read a bit about this book by the singer poet Patti Smith a week or so a go I went head and ordered it. I’ve listened to her music over the years and had seen that she had published a number of books that had been well received in the music magazines I read. But it was just a fancy for a change in my reading and it was a welcome surprise how much I enjoyed it. It follows Patti in recent years after the death of her husband Fred smith from MC5 it is also littered with her own polaroids.

Cafe ino didn’t exist back then. I would sit by a low window in Caffee Dante that looked out into the corner of a small alley, reading Mrabet’s The Beach cafe. A young fish-seller named Driss meets a reclusive, uncongenial codger who has a so called cafe with only one table and one chair on a rocky stretch of shore near Tangier. The slow-moving atomshere surrounding the cafe so captivated me that I desired nothing more thn to dwell withinit. Like Driss, I dreamed of opening a place of my own. I thought aboutit so much I could enterit : the cafe Nerval, a small haven where poets and travelers might find the simplicity of asylum.

Her she dreams of various cafes she has visited and read about.

The book opens and Patti drinks a black coffee at her favorite cafe where she is shocked when Zak her favorite waiter and maker of coffee is due to leave and open a beach cafe this reminds her of the beach cafe she read about in a book translated by Paul Bowles, we find out how she meet Bowles in Tangiers as she spoke in a conference about Beat writers she was friends with Wiliam Boroughs since her early twenties. This is a wonderful reflection on a reader and her love of books from Beat writer Jean genet whose grave she visits then takes a visit to Berlin and her love of Bulgakov on her last visit a sideline about various angels made me smile as it mentions that ode to Berlin wings of desire. Then another trip is Japan and Murakami a writer she said like Bolano and Bulgakov she got fully drawn into. Then she mentions the master of Japanese cinema Ozu and Akira Kurosawa via one of the few filmmakers to work with them both. Then a visit to Zak  Beach cafe a meeting with an old friend this is a warm book tinged with the memories she had with Fred as she revisits places for the first time alone.

MY BERLIN HOTEL was in a renovated Bauhaus structure in the Mitte district of former East Berlin. It had everything I needed and was in close proximity to the Pasternak cafe, which I discoverd on a walk during a previous visit , at the hieght of an obsession with Mikhail Bulgakov’s The master and the Margarita. I dropped my bags in my room  and went directly to the cafe. The proprietress greeted me warmly and I sat at the same table beneath the photograph of Bulgakov. As I was taken by pPasternak’s old wolrd charms. The faded blue walls were dressed in photographsof beloved Russian Poets Anna Akhmatova and Vladmir Mayakovsky.

Another city, another cafe this time Berlin.

A change but when you read smiths taste in books it is very much a reader I would share a lot in common and it also has influenced Smith writing style there is a touch of Sebald here for me it is full of her own experiences around the world as she visits various graves and thinks of Fred there is a sense of her love of books and life but also the sense of her own mortality which really touched me. Then there is smiths love of Itv 3 as a fellow crime drama fan I so agree wh=ith the way she just falls into watching them. Smith has a great chance to do all this as she is well Patti Smith a true one-off and has the chance to go place and see things that we don’t so it is a glance into a world that is unique. I loved her polaroids as well they speak so much from Bolanos chair to Frida Khalo crutches. Have you read any of Smiths other books

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. readerlane
    Jun 18, 2020 @ 21:55:38

    A couple years ago, I read Just Kids, the excellent memoir of her earlier life including her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. I enjoyed her use of some key photos in that book — sounds like there are even more in M Street. Your review is reminding me I need to read M Street, too 😉

    Reply

  2. JacquiWine
    Jun 19, 2020 @ 07:58:03

    I’ve been meaning to read Patti Smith’s Just Kids for a while now (a friend almost chose it for our book group a few years ago but it never happened in the end). this sounds fascinating too. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply

  3. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Jun 19, 2020 @ 13:01:52

    I’ve read *all* of her books, Sty – absolutely love her music and her writing. Just wonderful and this one is a particular favourite!

    Reply

  4. Trackback: That was the months that was May/June 2020 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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