On the one hand, she is shrouded in the darkness of Gotham, hard boiled and sharp shooting. She loves her trains and her camera and her coffee. On the other hand, she glides along the clouds of lapsed Catholicism, innocent and ethereal.
To celebrate the arrival of her latest book, Devotion, we're making Patti Smith our Author of the Month for October! Check out a selection of our favourites of hers below.
From Yale University Press:
A work of creative brilliance may seem like magic-its source a mystery, its impact unexpectedly stirring. How does an artist accomplish such an achievement, connecting deeply with an audience never met? In this groundbreaking book, one of our culture's beloved artists offers a detailed account of her own creative process, inspirations, and unexpected connections. Patti Smith first presents an original and beautifully crafted tale of obsession-a young skater who lives for her art, a possessive collector who ruthlessly seeks his prize, a relationship forged of need both craven and exalted. She then takes us on a second journey, exploring the sources of her story. We travel through the South of France to Camus's house, the garden of the great publisher Gallimard where the ghosts of Mishima, Nabokov, and Genet mingle. She tracks down Simone Weil's grave in a lonely cemetery, hours from London, and winds through the nameless Paris streets of Patrick Modiano's novels. Whether writing in a cafe or a train, Smith generously opens her notebooks and lets us glimpse the alchemy of her art and craft in this arresting and original book on writing.
The Coral Sea
Through the linked pieces of The Coral Sea, Patti Smith honors her comrade-in-arms Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989). She tells the story of a man on an ocean journey to see the Southern Cross, who is reflecting on his life and fighting the illness that is consuming him. Metaphoric and dreamy, this tale of transformation arises from Smith's knowledge of Mapplethorpe from a young man to a mature artist; his close relationship with patron and friend, Sam Wagstaff; his years surviving AIDS; and his ascent into death. The Coral Sea is Smith's lyrically compelling recasting of her grief to recapture Mapplethorpe's life in the past and his future in his art. Rich in evocative details, it shows the man beneath the persona.
In this small, luminous memoir, the National Book Award-winner Patti Smith revisits the most sacred experiences of her early years, with truths so vivid they border on the surreal. The author entwines her childhood self - and its 'clear, unspeakable joy' - with memories both real and envisioned from her twenties on New York's MacDougal Street, the street of cafés.
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 artists at work today.