cover image M Train

M Train

Patti Smith. Knopf, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-101-87510-0

Following Smith’s bestselling and critically acclaimed book Just Kids, this essay collection creates a map of the singer-songwriter’s peripatetic journeys to cafes, cemeteries, hotels, and train stations around the world. She is the perfect guide, revealing the mysteries in the shadows, the little bits of life people often take for granted—such as a good cup of coffee, a familiar coat, or the “transformation of the heart.” In 19 imagistic reflections, Smith invites readers to travel with her from Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul and Sylvia Plath’s grave to the Far Rockaway bungalow that Smith buys just before Hurricane Sandy comes ashore and destroys much of the surrounding territory. Smith’s haunting and joyful recollections of her life with her late husband, Fred Sonic Smith, anchor her intensely physical descent into memory and its ability to haunt her waking and dreaming life. Smith illustrates her meditations with her signature Polaroid photos of Fred, as well as objects such as her father’s desk chair and the chess table where Bobby Fischer played Boris Spassky. The narrative carries readers through the despair, loss, hope, consolation, and mysteries that Smith faces as she lives through Fred’s death, struggles with the writer’s craft, and comes to realize, through one of her dreams, that the “writer is a conductor”—and she is indeed a phenomenal conductor along these elegant tours of the haunting places in her life, where anyone might stumble upon momentary but life-altering wisdom. (Oct.)