Patti Smith’s M Train is a Meditation on Grief and Memory

Patti Smith is dreaming. “It’s not so easy writing about nothing,” M Train opens. Her and a “cowpoke” stand in a sunset, the cowpoke ignoring her. “You got to at least look at me,” Smiths says to him. “After all, it is my dream.”

The cowpoke writes in a notebook pulled from his back pocket. It says, “Nope, it’s mine.”

This is the line the book straddles — dream and reality, tiny moments and succinct revelations. Smith is known for her poetry and the book shines with descriptive passages. The scenes are out of order, flipping between the current timeline and the past. Smith recounts a trip to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni with her husband, Fred Smith. Quickly we learn that in the present, Fred has died — something fans are already well aware of. He remains a flicker through the rest of the pages, a flash of her life then against her life now.

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