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M Train by Patti Smith
M Train by Patti Smith, a great read but a much better listen

M Train by Patti Smith 
Inspiring and Poignant 

Audio/Book Review


Jan 6, 2019


Review By Ceylan Karasapan-Crow

“A poetic tour de force by one of the most brilliant multi-platform artists at work today” - GoodReads

I love this book, it is an extended “Beautiful poem of longing”. I do recommend listening to the book especially since it is Patti herself reading it and it was a Grammy Award Nominee for Best Spoken Word Album in 2017. I was mesmerized by her East Coast Accent and deep raspy voice. 

Patti takes us along her solitary life full of deep subtle melancholic meanderings abundant in wisdom and humor. She’s deeply sad over her  irremediable loss of her life partner, Fred Sonic Smith. The loss is not recent, I find out, she met Fred in 1976 with whom she had two children before his death from a heart attack in 1994 when he was just 45 years old. M train is drenched in her longing for him, her soulmate . At one point she whimpers “Just come back. You’ve been gone long enough.” Then we learn she lost her Brother Todd jus a month later.

Her love of literature and literary genius is hope giving. I believe, In dark times it is art that saves humanity, and listening to Patti gave me hope. I also found out Patti learned to write during the years she was raising her children, working hard at her writing every day and publishing nothing. M Train is a testament to that hard work; this is literature to the core.

I am inspired to make a list of all her favorite writers she mentions and read those I’m not familiar with. The piece is especially inspiring to me as an artist - I came out of it wanting to express, to create. Such a beautifully moving work it is. For all her intellectualism Patti is also an everyday person binging on BBC Detective shows and even describes an episode of “The Killing”. But the description is with such precise poetry I was astonished. (I had  already been prompted by her mention in the book of the series to watch a season of “The Killing”,  so her description made so much more of an impact. She is also hilarious.  At one point we arrive at her favorite cafe to find a woman sitting in her usual chair, and she muses to herself: “If this were an episode of Midsomer Murders she would surely be found strangled in a wild ravine behind an abandoned vicarage.”

Her love of life comes through constantly and very poignantly especially when she talks of Sylvia Plath and hits deep as we learn of the way Plath ended her life… and Patti implores “Life Sylvia, life, life, life!”.

Patti lives a quiet life and writes and reads profusely and does quite a bit of spontaneous traveling for very sentimental reasons. I felt as if I were accompanying Patti on her travels; To Berlin, to a meeting of an obscure society, the Continental Drift Club. Then to  Mexico City to Frida Kahlo’s house.  She is drawn to visit artists’ graves and spends a lot  of time looking for them, and thinking of and finding gifts to offer at the grave site. She  has a profound connection to writers of past she loves. When we were not traveling,  we hung around Greenwich Village and spent time  making lists of literary masterpieces, reading while having black coffee and brown toast with olive oil and playing word games. Her constant companions are her cups of coffee, her books and her cats. Going to Cafe Ino on Bedford street in downtown Manhattan, just steps away form her apartment becomes a part of our own everyday ritual.    

In her late sixties at the time of writing this book, rather than lament her losses and her solitude, Patti embraces both with deep feeling, love and humor. The listen (and read if you choose) is soothing, interesting, full of revelation and surprises whether in the form of an unknown tidbit about a famous writer or her thoughts on life itself. But what most got me was her command over so many beautiful words, the flow with which she surfs from one thought to another, from dream to reality and the many nuanced emotions she expresses. I did read the book as well but highly recommend you  listen to it. Its on audible app Free with a 30 day trial.

Here is a sample listen:

Or here on Audible

M Train

•By: Patti Smith

•Narrated by: Patti Smith

•Length: 6 hrs and 32 mins

•Unabridged Audiobook

•Release date: 10-06-15

•Language: English

•Publisher: Random House Audio


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