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M train
2015
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Summary
From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids : an unforgettable odyssey into the mind of this legendary artist, told through the prism of cafés and haunts she has visited and worked in around the world.
M Train is a journey through seventeen "stations." It 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. We then travel, through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations: from Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico, to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; from the ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith buys just before Hurricane Sandy hits, to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation, alongside signature memories, including of her life in Michigan with her husband, guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, whose untimely death was an irremediable loss. For it is loss, as well as the consolation we might salvage from it, that lies at the heart of this exquisitely told memoir, one augmented by stunning black-and-white Polaroids taken by Smith herself. M Train is a meditation on endings and on beginnings: a poetic tour de force by one of the most brilliant, multi-platform artists at work today.
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Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Smith maps her creative life in this sequence of atmospheric, tender, and lithe essays ondreams, solitude, travel, and love. Smith's passion for the elixir of black coffee savored in quiet cafés, her sanctuaries and studios, forms a unifying refrain within these exquisite, transporting, and reflective autobiographical tales. A poet, performer, artist, vagabond, and National Book Award-winning memoirist for Just Kids (2010), Smith came to art through a working-class portal and gratefully pays homage to the visionaries who have long guided and inspired her. She chronicles audacious pilgrimages to Frida Kahlo's home; the former site of a penal colony in French Guiana, in honor of Genet; Tangiers, where she meets Paul Bowles; various writers' graves in Japan; and Berlin for a meeting of the esoteric Continental Drift Club, founded to honor the explorer Alfred Wegener. Deepening her mission of remembrance, Smith writes lovingly of her factory-worker father and his inner elegance, and her husband, Fred Sonic Smith, with whom she shared mystical times. She muses over her passion for reading, addiction to detective shows, and bouts with melancholia, and tells the fable-like story of the old, decrepit bungalow she bought on Queens' Far Rockaway beachfront right before the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. 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. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With the concurrent release of her Collected Lyrics, 1970-2015 (see p.29), Smith will be the focus of major and diverse media coverage as she conducts an extensive national tour.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2015 Booklist
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