M Train by Patti Smith, narrated by the author, is a poetic and meandering memoir that illustrates how the writing life can not only be rich with inspiration but also frustratingly slow and difficult. Smith spends much of her time drinking black coffee in different cafes, and as she interacts with those she meets and in her projects, she is still holding on to the pain of loss, as her husband passed away too young. While the loss of her husband is there with her as she rides the subway (there is an M train in New York City that travels between Queens and Manhattan), travels to Tangiers and other foreign locations, it does not take center stage.
Memories drag her daily ruminations into different directions, and these memories are all that are left of those she loves and who have inspired her as a woman, an artist, a poet, and as a person. She is obsessed with crime dramas and coffee, and her writing is on napkins, in blank pages of books she’s reading (for the upteenth time), and on scraps and in notebooks.
You can see some elements of the memoir online.
Like the dilapidated bungalow she buys on Rockaway beach just before Superstorm Sandy, Smith endures the everyday erosion of life, the waves that threaten to break us and smash us into pieces. The only testament to our strength is to continue onward and to move forward through our lives chasing our passions and enjoying every moment we are graced with. Her empty house on Rockaway is where her memories rattle around, emerging only when necessary, allowing her to look back on how much her life has evolved and how much she wants to hold onto as much of it as she can.
The self-narrated M Train by Patti Smith is numbing in the amount of loss in one person’s life, but her life is not that different from that of others who struggle against the tidal wave of loss. Memory can help us hold onto those we love, but even those are eroded by time. Many of us have a hard time moving on, and in her memoir, she explores this in depth.
About the Author:
Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone.
Please visit her Website.