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Thursday, November 12, 2015

M Train by Patti Smith


Patti Smith - Beacon Theatre - 11/10/15 - Photo by Stephen Cipolla




"It's not so easy writing about nothing." - Patti Smith "M Train"

It's not so easy writing a review about "M Train" either. I picked up Patti Smith's latest memoir hoping the muse she has always been to me would emerge after I read it to inspire and lift me out of my writing doldrum. Instead, I found myself slipping deeper into it, and unable to even write an in-depth review. I decided to just highlight a couple of passages and throw in a couple of thoughts.

"Without noticing, I slip into a light yet lingering malaise. Not a depression, more like a fascination for melancholia, which I turn in my hand as if it were a small planet, streaked in shadow, impossibly blue." - Patti Smith "M Train"

It's hard to reflect on the past while living in a totally different present. And I, the invisible person sitting across from Patti at her favorite cafe, watching her daily routine as she nurses her black coffee, nibbles on brown toast with olive oil, making notes or compiling lists, find myself feeling sort of sad for her. Not for the glimpses into her past which many of us never had a view of before, but for the tales she tells of the present.

Drinking lots of black coffee, opening a can of sardines over the sink for dinner, binging on crime tv shows, and spending a birthday and New Year's Eve alone, seems like a routine not associated with anyone "famous." Even the times she is away from her NYC home traveling around the world it doesn't seem like she's "living the dream."

My cousin, who was friends with her mom Beverly when she was alive, says not to believe it. "That's just what she wants to portray," he says. "She always performs on her birthday and New Year's Eve. And she eats very well, she's friends with a lot of famous chefs. I could go on, so don't go feeling too bad for her." Okay then.

"Not all dreams need to be realized. That was what Fred used to say." - Patti Smith "M Train"

As a devoted fan of hers from the beginning, oh, how I resented Patti when she married Fred "Sonic" Smith,  moved away from music, moved away from NYC, and moved to Michigan. When I was 19, I couldn't understand her throwing away her "rockstar" status to become just a wife and mother. Just a wife and mother. Just a wife and mother. It wasn't until I moved away from NYC to Virginia and became just a wife and mother did I understand "just" was a ridiculous word to use.

"Becoming a parent and being responsible for one’s own blood, a tiny helpless thing shifts our place in our universe. We find we are no longer in the center and our self-preoccupation forcibly dissipates. That is a good thing. One can maintain their ideals, their artistic vision, and sense of self while still relinquishing one’s place in the center. That is how we evolve. That is how we develop a sense of humanity, placing others before ourselves." - Patti Smith answering a question on Goodreads.

After reading "M Train" I feel even worse. Clearly, the days she spent with Fred seem like when Patti was happiest. How could I resent that?

"We want things we cannot have. We seek to reclaim a certain moment, sound, sensation. I want to hear my mother's voice. I want to see my children as children. Hands small, feet swift. Everything changes. Boy grown, father dead, daughter taller than me, weeping from a bad dream. Please stay forever, I say to the things I know. Don't go. Don't grow." - Patti Smith "M Train"

Yes. The wish of many of us...

"All writers are bums, I murmured. May I be counted among you one day." - Patti Smith "M Train"

I don't think Patti has to worry about that. Congrats to her for making the New York Times Bestseller List again, like she did with "Just Kids." Unlike "Just Kids" which focused on the past, "M Train" dips into it. I'd say it's more of a melancholy memoir about nothing extraordinary, written beautifully, and leaving this reader wanting more. The way I see it there's three more books in Patti...2 more memoirs...The Rock 'N Roll Years, The Mothering Years, and a crime novel. The last will be the hardest for her to write, and the first one is the one I want to read most.


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