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Review: "M Train," by Patti Smith


A couple years back I read "Just Kids" and it was fascinating. Stories of connection with Robert Mapplethorpe and a host of other characters that prowled around the New York environs in the 60's, 70's and 80's. It was intense and moving. It was everything this book is not. I assume M Train must stand for memory train and this book wanders and meanders, esoterically filling pages with little and less. I understand that Smith is a poet, a goddess among the ranks of early punk rock. A muse, a magician, a raconteur, an observer, an artist. Now I'm starting to sound just like her. If this was a book of poetry straight out, I think I could have enjoyed it more. I'm confused. Is my goal NOT to enjoy this work. Honestly, I don't care how many coffees and odd little meals Patti downs. I don't care about ramblings that if I read them five times they are still rendered so obscure and garbled that I get nothing from them. She can occasionally turn a phrase and has a poet's mind. Anyone can easily see that, but this is just, not only a bore, but somehow tremendously less than entertaining. There are a few good tales. Her meeting up with the insane chess grand champion Bobby Fischer and them singing songs together is rather amazing and I feel like she might have filled the entire book with these types of stories. Perhaps she's saving a number of them for another day. I hope so. Perhaps I should be more kind and look deeper into her catalog. Has she written a novel. It might be very good. This was not. One must either love or respect Patti Smith intensely (I can't say that I do either) or have a greater affinity for artistic freedom and possibility. Perhaps it's sad but I feel like I'd rather read about her than read material by her. Time will tell, but I cannot recommend this book.