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M Train - Book Review

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by Jenny Esots (subscribe)
A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published November 5th 2015
A Memoir from a Vagabond Heart
Patti Smith is a punk rock icon, poet, writer and artist currently living in New York, but really a world traveller and vagabond. I kind of think she would like the tag vagabond as so many of the people she writes about are vagabonds. Her memoir is full of ramblings and wanderings and as she puts it 'writing about nothing' as she takes her place for her coffee fix at Café Ino on Sixth Avenue and dreams and scribbles away in her notebook.

M Train by Patti Smith
M Train by Patti Smith


Her regular order is black coffee with brown bread and olive oil, quite simple tastes. I can relate to the coffee cravings of a good long black, but consider myself not a coffee snob, but enough to draw the line at instant coffee. So begins another walk inside the mind of Patti Smith. The M Train is the mystery train of thought, mental wanderings. This train does indeed travel all over the place. Childhood memories and recollections, random stopovers and aching remembrances of her husband Fred 'Sonic' Smith. She writes, mourns and yearns for him 'Just come back'.

The pages of M Train by Patti Smith
The pages of M Train by Patti Smith


This memoir is about writing dreams, which by nature do not make sense, but do have hidden meanings. Writing is about processing pain, the pain of loss in all its forms. Here there are friends and lovers lost, family gone and half a coastline wiped out. Her first memoir was released five years ago entitled Just Kids. This featured her life and times and relationship with her partner Robert Mapplethorpe. This also delved into the pain of loss.

Patti Smith takes her place for her coffee fix at Café Ino on Sixth Avenue and dreams and scribbles away
Patti Smith takes her place for her coffee fix at Café Ino on Sixth Avenue and dreams and scribbles away


Patti seems to paint herself as a loner who has strange encounters with an odd assortment of people. She is on assignment at various times, taking polaroids. This method of photography is an interesting choice in itself. Her art is free form and not at all planned. She has a rare ability to speak, create and sing from her very raw being. Her seminal recorded works include the album Horses in which she poses in androgynous photos by Robert Mapplethorpe. Her most well known song was co-written by Bruce Springsteen, Because the Night.

M Train by Patti Smith
M Train by Patti Smith


This journey is tainted with layers of sadness. Patti at 66 years of age is questioning her life and what she believes, something that is part of being human. Questions, yearnings, fascinations, dreams and somehow trying to put it all together. The reader is drawn into the wanderings and obscurities of Patti Smith. I raise my coffee cup to her and hope she is in the process of making many more polaroids and dreams on the page.

Published by Bloomsbury Australia.
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Why? In Polaroids and Dreams
When: Released September 2015
Where: Available in all good book stores
Cost: Published by Bloomsbury Australia.
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