M Train by Patti Smith

72%

46 Critic Reviews

...she is indeed a phenomenal conductor along these elegant tours of the haunting places in her life, where anyone might stumble upon momentary but life-altering wisdom.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

National Best Seller 

From the National Book Award–winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey of a legendary artist, told through the prism of the cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world. It is a book Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.”

M Train 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. Through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, and across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations, we travel to Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico; to a meeting of an Arctic explorer’s society in Berlin; to a ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York’s Far Rockaway that Smith acquires just before Hurricane Sandy hits; and to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima.

Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s craft and on artistic creation. Here, too, are singular memories of Smith’s life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith.

Braiding despair with hope and consolation, illustrated with her signature Polaroids, M Train is a meditation on travel, detective shows, literature, and coffee. It is a powerful, deeply moving book by one of the most remarkable multiplatform artists at work today.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Patti Smith

See more books from this Author
Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary mergence of poetry and rock. Her seminal album Horses, bearing Robert Mapplethorpe’s renowned photograph, has been hailed as one of the top 100 albums of all time. Her books include Witt, Babel, Woolgathering, The Coral Sea, and Auguries of Innocence. In 2005, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Smith the prestigious title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honor awarded to an artist by the French Republic. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Smith married the late Fred Sonic Smith in Detroit in 1980. They had a son, Jackson, and a daughter, Jesse. Smith resides in New York City.
 
Published October 6, 2015 by Vintage. 290 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon4
Peak Rank on Nov 01 2015
icon5
Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
1
Want to Read
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for M Train
All: 46 | Positive: 39 | Negative: 7

Kirkus

Above average
on Sep 22 2015

Not as focused as Just Kids, but an atmospheric, moody, and bittersweet memoir to be savored and pondered.

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Aug 07 2015

...she is indeed a phenomenal conductor along these elegant tours of the haunting places in her life, where anyone might stumble upon momentary but life-altering wisdom.

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by M. G. Lord on Dec 04 2015

Smith’s writing leans toward visual stream-of-consciousness...Smith writes most tenderly about her family years in Detroit, and the death of her husband...

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Oct 01 2015

An eloquent — and a deeply moving — elegy for what she has “lost and cannot find” but can remember in words.

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Alice O'Keeffe on Nov 19 2015

Her sustaining force, however, is an unswerving commitment to art – her own, and that of others...To read this book is to immerse oneself in the mind of an artist, in all its entertaining, surprising and self-indulgent glory.

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from Guardian

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Beth Kephart on Oct 05 2015

Sometimes you finish reading a book and you think, Okay. That’s it. That captures it. I felt like that, reading M Train.

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Oct 07 2015

Smith, too, has weathered storms, but as she eloquently demonstrates in M Train, there's a spooky beauty in those ramshackle things and people that defy conventional wisdom and keep on standing.

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from NPR

NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Oct 04 2015

Unlike the relatively straightforward, chronological narrative of Just Kids, M Train drifts fluidly between a fugue state of memories, dreams, and a largely solitary present. The tone is elegiac, melancholic, and meditative...

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from NPR

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Claude Peck on Oct 04 2015

Perhaps a bit drifty, dreamy and downbeat at times, “M Train” nonetheless has many lovely set pieces and an overall tone of moody exaltation akin to her music.

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Stephen Febick on Oct 23 2015

M TRAIN is not a memoir in the traditional sense. Rather, it combines all forms of art --- including photography, prose and poetry --- making for a beautiful read.

Read Full Review of M Train

Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by Annabel Lyon on Oct 09 2015

This inward turn doesn’t exclude her fans. You sense she wants to bring us with her as she moves into this next phase of her career: a generous, intimate dialogue with times both before and after her own time in this world.

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Blake Maddux on Oct 05 2015

Nevertheless, any book in which the author tells of gathering stones from a prison in French Guiana for Jean Genet and singing Buddy Holly songs with Bobby Fischer can’t be all bad.

Read Full Review of M Train | See more reviews from AV Club

Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by LEAH GREENBLATT on Oct 02 2015

Some fans of Just Kids will inevitably be disappointed by M Train’s pensive wanderings and muted palette. Patient ones, though, will find a different kind of beauty: bittersweet and battered by time and circumstance, but still somehow full of grace.

Read Full Review of M Train

The Independent

Good
Reviewed by Fiona Sturges on Oct 18 2015

There is no real beginning, middle or end to M Train though it offers the most rounded portrait you could hope for of a life lived intensely, truthfully and on a never-ending quest for artistic enrichment. As books about nothing go, this is really quite something.

Read Full Review of M Train

The Independent

Good
Reviewed by Chris Maume on Oct 01 2015

Among her sacred objects are the many Polaroids she takes in the course of M Train, some of which are included – in homage, perhaps, to Sebald. “Oh, to be reborn in the pages of a book,” she cries at one point, and Smith comes intensely and wonderfully alive in this one.

Read Full Review of M Train

Booklist Online

Excellent
Reviewed by Donna Seaman on Sep 01 2015

Smith is astutely romantic, gracefully imaginative, gently spiritual, and touchingly humble in this beautiful and entrancing chronicle of dancing to the music of change and finding words that balance loss.

Read Full Review of M Train

Dallas News

Above average
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Oct 01 2015

M Train is not a perfect book, meandering in places, overly romantic at times about the purifying power of art. But why not? Smith has always represented aspiration as much as achievement, the idea that art ennobles us by bringing us in contact with something larger than ourselves.

Read Full Review of M Train

BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Julie Hale on Oct 11 2015

Her writing style is at once poetic and direct. Like her trademark attire—boots, cap, coat—her narratives have a plainspoken beauty that transcends the times.

Read Full Review of M Train

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Good
Reviewed by Kristofer Collins on Nov 01 2015

Ms. Smith stares into her many cups of black coffee and, like Mr. Murakami with his mysterious wells, and Wegener’s polar expansions, whole worlds are opened up to her. “M Train” is her report back from those journeys.

Read Full Review of M Train

USA Today

Good
Reviewed by Matt Damsker on Oct 25 2015

“Do our lost possessions mourn us?” she asks. So goes the spirit of M Train, as Patti Smith inventories her inspirations, and makes her house out of the life lived, out of the love spent.

Read Full Review of M Train

PopMatters

Good
Reviewed by MEGAN VOLPERT on Sep 29 2015

The real delight of Smith’s work is how simply and daily she strives to embrace those mundane realities with which we all struggle. In the constant grip of what has been lost and mourned and pulled toward the abyss, she just wants readers to be human with her...

Read Full Review of M Train

The Columbus Dispatch

Above average
Reviewed by Margaret Quamme on Oct 04 2015

Potential readers should take warning that Smith isn’t kidding about nothing happening in the book. Places and people drop away; others take their spots. But readers willing to go along on a ride to nowhere will find Smith a fine companion.

Read Full Review of M Train

We Love This Book

Above average
Reviewed by Jo Harding on Oct 08 2015

If you like your books to be of a definitive genre M Train is not for you. It is memoir, travelogue, essay, history, meditation and quite possibly fiction.

Read Full Review of M Train

Jacksonville.com

Good
Reviewed by Anne Payne on Nov 21 2015

If “M Train” has humor, it’s in wry observation of life’s ironies. There is absolutely no sarcasm, snark or attempt to cast anecdotes in a laugh-inducing mode.

Read Full Review of M Train

The Miami Herald

Above average
Reviewed by EMMA TRELLES on Nov 11 2015

At the heart of M Train is the careful braid the author makes between everyday matters and her lyrical take on how art offers a form of sustenance.

Read Full Review of M Train

Chicago Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Charles Finch on Nov 12 2015

The moments like this one in "Just Kids" and "M Train" have remarkable power, in their blend of directness, melancholy and memory. But in less charged passages, that style can become monotonous, or even (he whispered, quietly) self-serious.

Read Full Review of M Train

Tulsa World

Below average
Reviewed by Associated Press on Oct 18 2015

Still, there’s hope if you’re looking for more of what Smith gave us in her first book. Skip “M Train” and stay tuned for a forthcoming Showtime series based on “Just Kids.”

Read Full Review of M Train

Post and Courier

Below average
Reviewed by Vick Mickunas on Oct 11 2015

This subtle book closes with affirmations. Smith shares what she cares about, and how it feels to be getting older. Disappointing

Read Full Review of M Train

The Big Story

Below average
Reviewed by BETH J. HARPAZ on Oct 05 2015

Still, there's hope if you're looking for more of what Smith gave us in her first book. Skip "M Train" and stay tuned for a forthcoming Showtime series based on "Just Kids."

Read Full Review of M Train

BuffaloNews.com

Good
Reviewed by Jeff Miers on Oct 25 2015

This is Romanticism of the highest order, but Smith avoids anything resembling the maudlin. For her, life is no less beautiful for the suffering endemic to its living.

Read Full Review of M Train

Austin Chronicle

Good
Reviewed by JESSI CAPE on Dec 11 2015

Chock-full of literary loops and detective show references (The Killing), and peppered with Smith's Polaroids, M Train begs to be dog-eared, footnoted, and shared.

Read Full Review of M Train

Paste

Above average
Reviewed by Eric Swedlund on Oct 07 2015

And so she brings those dreams, those lost loves, those sacred objects into being. M Train is Smith’s treatise on life’s purpose and meaning, and why a worn and tattered black jacket can be cherished beyond all reason, can be treasured with the same fervor as the world’s most celebrated art.

Read Full Review of M Train

The New York Review of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Geoffrey O’Brien on Oct 20 2015

Perhaps M Train represents the attempt by someone whose career is as public as can be imagined to stake out a zone of inviolable privacy, albeit through the public act of writing a book meant for publication. That paradox, of a solitude played out in plain view, plays about the edges of M Train but does not overwhelm it.

Read Full Review of M Train

Slant Magazine

Good
Reviewed by MANUEL BETANCOURT on Oct 11 2015

If the whiff of death throughout is undeniable, it's a testament to Smith's talent that it never feels morbid, her own sentences bringing to life those authors and loved ones she's lost but carries within her.

Read Full Review of M Train

Alibi

Good
Reviewed by Maggie Grimason on Nov 08 2015

M Train both diminishes the myth of Patti Smith and expands it. She gives readers full access to her life and its most mundane details.

Read Full Review of M Train

Windy City Media

Good
Reviewed by Liz Baudler on Nov 17 2015

M Train is to be read chapter by chapter, savored and consulted as a book of wisdom. Each section feels like an ode to to the transitory and succeeds in its own particular way whether it mourns or acknowledges time.

Read Full Review of M Train

Readings

Above average
Reviewed by Danielle Mirabella on Sep 29 2015

While some readers may find the lack of narrative thread a weakness, I find it to be the beauty of the book. The meandering, journal-like style between these stories mirrors the motions of train travel...

Read Full Review of M Train

https://www.bostonglobe.com

Good
Reviewed by Eugenia Williamson on Oct 25 2015

In the hands of a lesser writer, this book would be, in British parlance, a total wank. But Smith is a generous, charming, and brilliant guide.

Read Full Review of M Train

https://www.washingtonpost.com

Good
Reviewed by Elizabeth Hand on Oct 02 2015

Readers who share in Smith’s transcendent pilgrimage may find themselves reborn within the pages of this exquisite memoir.

Read Full Review of M Train

She Knows

Good
Reviewed by Colleen Stinchcombe on Oct 30 2015

The journey can seem inconsequential, monotonous, but Smith proves that when you finally arrive at the station, the little things add up to something. They add up to everything. They add up to your life.

Read Full Review of M Train

http://flavorwire.com

Good
Reviewed by JUDY BERMAN on Oct 05 2015

Like Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, which I can only imagine Smith watched and adored, M Train is a monument to the timeless creations of humans doomed to die. It’s hard to imagine how anyone in our long history can have loved them as much as she does.

Read Full Review of M Train

Booktopia Blog

Good
Reviewed by Anastasia Hadjidemetri on Sep 22 2015

Here, she is closer to the dead than the living (with the exception of Marukami), paying homage to Frida Kahlo, WG Sebald and Schiller on meandering pilgrimages that defy time. A marvellous book to get lost in.

Read Full Review of M Train

http://adelaidereview.com.au

Good
Reviewed by THE ADELAIDE REVIEW on Oct 26 2015

We are familiar with Smith only to the extent that she is a character recounting the story presented before us, which is not the same thing as being acquainted with the person herself. Hence, the book contrives yet another evocation of absence. Only this time, we are the ones who are teased and cajoled by its rapture.

Read Full Review of M Train

Niklas' Blog

Good
on Oct 08 2015

This is a really good book. Not because it’s swift but because it’s just great. I hope Patti releases new stuff very, very soon.

Read Full Review of M Train

Women's Memoirs

Good
Reviewed by Lanie Tankard on Jan 19 2016

Her writing is simply gorgeous as she parses her heart. She brings it all back home at the end of M Train, pulling on her black watch cap and buttoning her oversized coat, heading out once again in search of “the perfect cup of joe.”

Read Full Review of M Train

Culture Catch

Good
Reviewed by Steve Holtje on Dec 07 2015

Of course, excerpts cannot fully convey the flavor of the book, its dream-like rhythms. These must be experienced sequentially. I highly recommend that you do so.

Read Full Review of M Train

Reader Rating for M Train
79%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 385 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

Alma Marhamati

Alma Marhamati 15 May 2016

Added the book to want to read list

×