Reading this book was a strange experience for me. Patti Smith is an iconic figure for my generation - punk, poet, priestess, hierophant - and her early albums (particularly Horses) rank among the all-time greats. Her performances ripple with a unique blend of eloquence and barely-suppressed rage, and her long and successful career has been founded on her talents as a wordsmith. This short book seems a million miles away from Patti Smith's recording career. It comes in three sections, the first of which recounts a trip she made to Paris to promote her latest book. She had first visited the city in the late 1960s, with her sister, and she takes the opportunity to revisit some old haunts, while immersing herself in a biography of Simone Weil, one of her heroes. She then decamps to England, to visit Weil's grave in Ashfield, Kent. On the face of it, a very simple story, and it only extends to twenty or so small pages, but Smith writes it so beautifully, and conjures such enthusiasm about Weil's life and work that the reader is completely transported. The second section is more problematic. At the simplest level, it is a short story about a girl with a troubled personal history who loves skating. There are some marvellous moments, and breath-taking images, but the story itself in simply too implausible to work. An intriguing exercise in style over substance, but one that just didn't quite work for me. For the third section, however, Smith comes roaring back with a brief essay about why she writes. Incisive and insightful, she concludes with a killer final line. Bizarrely, the weakest part of the book were the poems that she inserts between the different sections that I found quite excruciating.
About This Item
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, and visit the garden of the great publisher Gallimard where the ghosts of Mishima, Nabokov, and Genet mingle. Smith 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 café 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 Why I Write series is based on the Windham-Campbell Lectures, delivered annually to commemorate the awarding of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes at Yale University.
Why I Write
Yale University Press
|Number of Pages|
|Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)|
7.00 x 4.75 x 0.50 Inches
Reading this book was ...
This small book has th...
This small book has three sections. The first section is an essay/memoir about a trip to Paris where Smith meets with her French publishers and re-visits favorite places in France. She mentions various things that are inspiring her- movies, documentaries, poems, photos, objects, foods/drinks, and conversations. She uses these inspirations in the writing of the short story that comprises the second section. The third section is another essay/memoir in which she recalls a time when she was allowed to spend the night at the home of Albert Camus. While there she contemplates why she writes. I love Smith's two published memoirs; Just Kids and M Train. The two essay sections of the book are similar to those books. The fiction was interesting but not great. I give this book 4 stars for the first and third sections.
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