In her beautiful new memoir, M Train (Knopf, $25), Patti Smith has written an elegiac work much different in tone and style from her bestselling, National Book Award-winning 2010 memoir, Just Kids. M Train follows a deeply personal course, recounting Smith’s many pilgrimages to honor artists and friends important in her life. Combining travel narratives, dreams, memories, and her own photographs, Smith pays tribute to and, most importantly, spends time (as she faces her seventies, time is a central figure in this book) with places and objects beloved by her artistic mentors. Smith is moving and eloquent on Frida Kahlo’s bed, Tolstoy’s bear, Roberto Bolaño’s chair, Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, Paul Bowles’s Tangier—and through these meditative portraits she evokes a near-mystical experience of love, loss, and the mysteries of creativity. Wherever she goes, Smith is fortified by the local café—indulging in her drug of choice—endless cups of coffee.
This expanded and updated edition of the 1998 Collected Lyrics marks the 40th anniversary of Smith’s seminal debut album, Horses (which is number forty-four on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Greatest Albums). Smith’s reputation as a poet and artist preceded the iconic music, and all these forms coalesce to produce the definitive, three-hundred-page volume Patti Smith: Collected Lyrics, 1970-2015 (Ecco, $29.99). This book contains all the singer’s lyrics, including those from thirty-five new and recently-recorded songs, back to Smith’s very first song, written for Janis Joplin in 1970. Other special features include an introduction by the artist, Smith’s original drawings and photographs, and facsimiles of Smith’s handwritten commentary on some of the more controversial and iconoclastic pieces. This is a perfect companion piece for M Train—and an essential volume in the rock-and-roll canon.
This first novel from a widely published journalist and highly decorated Marine with four tours of duty speaks with the voice of authority and experience about one of the most tangled subjects of our time—the meaning, origins, and purpose of continual warfare in Afghanistan, and its impact on the lives of all involved, including Afghanis (the “green”) and Americans (“the blue”). The story follows the life of Aziz from his childhood to the cusp of manhood—a much wrought concept here—and the moral landscape he navigates, which is as treacherous as the mountain switchbacks traveled and mined by those who fight. The reader comes away more than sobered by the non-partisan perspective that reveals a sobering and universal truth, and is told in the spare, beautiful cadences that recall Hemingway’s stripped down eloquence. This important novel will surely take its place among the finest of war literature, joining especially recent contemporary classics like The Things They Carried.