M Train

Publisher: Vintage Canada
From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey into the mind of this legendary artist, told through the prism of cafés and haunts she has visited and worked in around the world.

M Train
is a journey through seventeen "stations." It begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. We then travel, through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations: from Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico, to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; from the ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith buys just before Hurricane Sandy hits, to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation, alongside signature memories, including of her life in Michigan with her husband, guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, whose untimely death was an irremediable loss. For it is loss, as well as the consolation we might salvage from it, that lies at the heart of this exquisitely told memoir, one augmented by stunning black-and-white Polaroids taken by Smith herself. M Train is a meditation on endings and on beginnings: a poetic tour de force by one of the most brilliant, multi-platform artists at work today.


I believe in movement. I believe in that lighthearted balloon, the world. I believe in midnight and the hour of noon. But what else do I believe in? Sometimes everything. Some- times nothing. It fluctuates like light flitting over a pond. I believe in life, which one day each of us shall lose. When we are young we think we...
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“This achingly beautiful memoir is a ballad about love and loss, an elegy for the author’s husband, Fred (Sonic) Smith; her brother, Todd; and her friend Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s an elliptical, almost stream-of-consciousness prose poem that traces Ms. Smith’s many quixotic travels (Reykjavik, Iceland; Mexico City; a small town in northwest French Guiana so she can visit the ruins of a French prison colony) and maps the landscape of her mind. There are ruminations on books and music, on people, places and memories—a requiem for all that she has ‘lost and cannot find’ but can remember in words.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Book Review 

“[M Train] has struck a chord among music fans. . . . Ah, to age like Patti Smith. While M Train lacks the emotional immediacy of Just Kids, her earlier memoir, it is a deliberate choice, leading to a deeper, more thoughtful volume, an accounting of love and loss, of wonder and fear, of cups of coffee and episodes of beloved television series. Perhaps the most lively meditation on the act—and art—of living one is likely to find this year. . . . [V]ery poetic and original, almost like a prose version of one of [Smith’s] songs.” —Toronto Star 

“[A] crystal clear gleam of authenticity . . . ripples through [Smith’s] work. . . . [E]ach chapter is like opening a trinket box, examining the contents. . . . It’s pretty safe to say that Smith’s work will continue to articulate the feelings of the isolated and outcast for many decades to come.” —National Post

“[A]s absorbing as [Just Kids]. . . . Today, even when a reader knows a great deal about [Smith’s] career, her books still seem fresh. She has an intuitive sense of narrative and a keen alertness to detail. She has her own voice, a quality many writers fail to achieve despite years of trying. She writes a flowing style, unabashed and innocent, a kind of idiomatic folk poetry.”  —National Post

“Smith’s mastery of free-flowing language has never been more evident. It’s a dizzying read, yes, but also a beautiful and often heart-tugging one.” —Toronto Star 

“[A] rare book that will please all.” —Vanity Fair

“I didn’t want [M Train] to end. I could smell the coffee [Patti Smith] talked about. I loved learning about obscure authors I had never heard about before. I started to take notes, to educate myself. I have my work cut out for me—my reading list now is so long, I don’t know what to read first. I love reading books that inspire me to read more books. What a gift [Patti Smith] gave me.” —Julianna Margulies, quoted in Entertainment Weekly

“[In M Train, Patti Smith has] given us some really beautiful parts of herself. . . . It’s incredibly inspiring the way she can truly be herself in the public eye.” —Florence Welch, lead singer of Florence and the Machine, Rolling Stone

“Patti Smith writes exquisitely and achingly about loss and the things that matter to her in her second memoir. Unlike the mostly chronological narrative of Just Kids, about her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, M Train is a running mental locomotive of memories and dreams, with little about her performance career. The tone is elegiac, melancholic and meditative as she evokes people who died far too young, including—most devastatingly—her husband Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith and her brother Todd, both in 1994. But the book is energized by various passions, including coffee, detective shows, far-flung pilgrimages to the graves of artistic and literary touchstones, and a rundown property she bought near the beach in Far Rockaway, Queens, just weeks before Hurricane Sandy devastated the area.” —NPR 

“[Smith] writes so beautifully. . . . Words are her art, and she deploys them magnificently.” —The Sydney Morning Herald 

“There’s intimacy in Smith’s deliciously drifting M Train, which sketches an inspiring self-portrait of the solitary, septuagenarian punk as she cruises coffee shops, imbuing everyday objects and random encounters with a strange potency.” —The Telegraph 

“[A]n extraordinary book about creation and what happens in the spaces between making art: the sheer loneliness of it.” —New Statesman 

“Smith maps her remarkably creative life in atmospheric, imaginative, tender, and exquisite essays.” —Booklist

“[Smith writes in a] beautifully evocative way, somehow treading the balance of being one of the coolest sexagenarians around . . . with the kind of intellectual references that make you want to go out and raid the nearest library (or Google) to find out what she’s talking about. In short, [M Train is] great.” —Glamour

“[Smith] is first and foremost a writer, with an original voice and a masterful style. . . . [N]ot only a delight but an inspiration.” —The Providence Journal

“Honestly, I like M Train better [than Just Kids]. . . . [M Train] reads more like the old Patti: discursive, fanciful, geeky, transgressive, just plain and delightfully weird. It’s a book that loses you and you get lost in, finding your own kernels of truth and resonance. . . . [T]he perfect book to take on the road and read in cafés.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“[Smith] shares a rush of memories, reveries, and revelations that reach a sad height with all the expressive power of her most rapturous ’70s rock. . . . [A] great meditation on solitude, independence, age, a ride-along with the last Romantic standing.” —USA Today (4 stars)