M Train

M Train, Patti Smith's follow-up to her memoir Just Kids, confirms her as a deliberate, observant, refreshing writer. No longer just a kid inhaling the artistic energy of New York, Smith is now in her late 60s and mostly alone. She's lost her husband, brother and dear friend Robert Mapplethorpe. Her son and daughter are grown and straddling 30. "How did we get so damn old, I say to my joints, my iron-colored hair," she reflects in her Greenwich Village apartment. "I [miss] that particular version of me, the one who was feverish, impious. She has flown." Writing is her solace. Coffee is her fuel. Her apartment is a mess of manuscript drafts and unfinished canvases, but it is a temple to "the centrality of work in a life.... Here is joy and neglect. A little mescal. A little jacking off, but mostly just work."

Drifting between the present and the past, M Train is stitched from Smith's memories and journals of travels and coffee houses around the world. Her journeys take her to Genet's prison in French Guiana, Mishima's Tokyo, Kahlo's and Rivera's Coyoacán, Bowles's Tangiers--and to Far Rockaway in Queens, where she impulsively buys a rundown bungalow near the boardwalk before Hurricane Sandy nearly blows it away.

Illustrated with several of her signature Polaroids, M Train is an affirmative, meandering story of a life shaken by tragedy but also buttressed with moments of joy and discovery. She embraces what she has and what she had. With each new book or song or poem, Smith adds another wreath to her already stout steeple. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe,Wichita, Kan.

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