M Train


“M Train” by Patti Smith
(First publication: 2015 / This edition: Alfred A. Knopf Publishing 2015)
Taken with my Bialetti pot and a bunch of dried statice flowers

All I needed for the mind was to be led to new stations.
All I needed for the heart was to visit a place of greater storms. (pg.168)

I fell in love with Patti Smith and her memoir “Just Kids”.

The first time I found out about “M Train” was probably back in June or July this year, and was searching all over to see how I could get an early copy or a manuscript copy of it first because I just could not wait another 3+ months to read it. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a channel to get it and had to wait. And a few days after the release date, I even went to the Kinokuniya bookstore here in Thailand to ask for it and they said that they never bring it titles from this publisher so……. I just had to order it from the Book Depository and had to wait an excruciatingly long 2+ weeks for it.

I was moved by this book.

Though I admit there were many parts that I didn’t really understand or get that absorbed in, I did feel that the parts I connected to made me understand Patti Smith better and got to know her better. It’s still as very personal, but “Just Kids” had more of a romantic vibe to it. In “M Train”, there’s more solely on just Patti Smith and her thoughts (instead of getting to know Robert Mapplethorpe as well).

It made me feel so giddy every time she wrote about how she loves Mikhail Bulgakov and his book “The Master and Margarita”, and how she visited Leo Tolstoy’s House in Moscow. It just made me feel more connected to her, I guess—just kinda “fan-girling” and loving how one of my favorite authors/idols and I love the same writers. 🙂

She also wrote a lot of Japan. I lived in Japan for about four years and reading her thoughts and her trips in Japan just makes me feel that much closer to her. I particularly enjoyed reading her stories in Tokyo—it made me reminisce about the streets and the people. It actually kind of put me in a melancholic mood because I got nostalgic, but I love that she appreciates and loves Japan as much as I do—and not in just a “tourist”, “only on the surface” way. She’s also inspiring me to read more Murakami too.

Kind of random, but a few days ago when I got to work after reading this on the commute, I was doing some research and came across an Apple commercial for the iPhone 6. The music attracted me and I searched to find what song it was—it’s “Murakami” by Made in Heights. And in “M Train”, Patti Smith’s storytelling style goes in and out of dreaming and reality. The lyrics to this song goes like:

It’s just a story though
Is it a story though?
I can’t tell if it happened cause it felt impossible
Don’t know whether it was real or a dream
Imagination playing tricks on me
Now tell me what you know
Is this a story or
An allegory for the racket knocking at my door?
What’s the difference if it’s real or a dream?
Imagination playing tricks on me

The song is probably so far from Patti Smith’s style and she’d probably be offended that I’m linking this song to her… but I thought it was just a quirky, funny coincidence that my reading and a song I was hearing for the first time was kind of syncing up. Plus it has some Japanese verses in it.

Anyway, I enjoyed this read and am looking forward to reading more by her. If you haven’t read “Just Kids” yet, I recommend you read that one first—if you like it, then read this one after. 🙂


Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:

I may not know what is in your mind, but I know how your mind works. (pg.66)

In time we often become with those we once failed to understand. (pg.171)

We believe it will go on forever, then an abrupt tearing of time, the death of everything. (pg.67)

—I’m off balance, not sure what’s wrong.
—You have misplaced joy, he said without hesitation. Without joy, we are as dead.
—How do I find it again?
—Find those who have it and bathe in their perfection. (pg.76)

I wondered why I had dreamed that, but then again, why do we dream about anything? (pg.77)

If I got lost along the way I had a company that I had found embedded in a pile of wet leaves I was kicking my way through. The compass was old and rusted but it still worked, connecting the earth and the stars. It told me where I was standing and which way was west but not where I was going and nothing of my worth. (pg.82)

Through it all we held fast to the concept of the clock with no hands. Tasks were completed, sump pumps manned, sandbags piled, trees planted, shirts ironed, hems stitched, and yet, we reserved the right to ignore the hands that kept on turning. Looking back, long after his death, our way of living seems a miracle, one that could only be achieved by the silent synchronization of the jewels and gears of a common man. (pg.87)


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