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Year of the Monkey

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From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids and M Train, a profound, beautifully realized memoir in which dreams and reality are vividly woven into a tapestry of one transformative year. Following a run of New Year’s concerts at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids and M Train, a profound, beautifully realized memoir in which dreams and reality are vividly woven into a tapestry of one transformative year. Following a run of New Year’s concerts at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary wandering. Unfettered by logic or time, she draws us into her private wonderland with no design, yet heeding signs–including a talking sign that looms above her, prodding and sparring like the Cheshire Cat. In February, a surreal lunar year begins, bringing with it unexpected turns, heightened mischief, and inescapable sorrow. In a stranger’s words, “Anything is possible: after all, it’s the Year of the Monkey.” For Smith–inveterately curious, always exploring, tracking thoughts, writing–the year evolves as one of reckoning with the changes in life’s gyre: with loss, aging, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America. Smith melds the western landscape with her own dreamscape. Taking us from California to the Arizona desert; to a Kentucky farm as the amanuensis of a friend in crisis; to the hospital room of a valued mentor; and by turns to remembered and imagined places, this haunting memoir blends fact and fiction with poetic mastery. The unexpected happens; grief and disillusionment set in. But as Smith heads toward a new decade in her own life, she offers this balm to the reader: her wisdom, wit, gimlet eye, and above all, a rugged hope for a better world. Riveting, elegant, often humorous, illustrated by Smith’s signature Polaroids, Year of the Monkey is a moving and original work, a touchstone for our turbulent times.


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From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids and M Train, a profound, beautifully realized memoir in which dreams and reality are vividly woven into a tapestry of one transformative year. Following a run of New Year’s concerts at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids and M Train, a profound, beautifully realized memoir in which dreams and reality are vividly woven into a tapestry of one transformative year. Following a run of New Year’s concerts at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary wandering. Unfettered by logic or time, she draws us into her private wonderland with no design, yet heeding signs–including a talking sign that looms above her, prodding and sparring like the Cheshire Cat. In February, a surreal lunar year begins, bringing with it unexpected turns, heightened mischief, and inescapable sorrow. In a stranger’s words, “Anything is possible: after all, it’s the Year of the Monkey.” For Smith–inveterately curious, always exploring, tracking thoughts, writing–the year evolves as one of reckoning with the changes in life’s gyre: with loss, aging, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America. Smith melds the western landscape with her own dreamscape. Taking us from California to the Arizona desert; to a Kentucky farm as the amanuensis of a friend in crisis; to the hospital room of a valued mentor; and by turns to remembered and imagined places, this haunting memoir blends fact and fiction with poetic mastery. The unexpected happens; grief and disillusionment set in. But as Smith heads toward a new decade in her own life, she offers this balm to the reader: her wisdom, wit, gimlet eye, and above all, a rugged hope for a better world. Riveting, elegant, often humorous, illustrated by Smith’s signature Polaroids, Year of the Monkey is a moving and original work, a touchstone for our turbulent times.

30 review for Year of the Monkey

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    ”Marcus Aurelius asks us to note the passing of time with open eyes. Ten thousand years or ten thousand days, nothing can stop time, or change the fact that I would be turning seventy in the Year of the Monkey. Seventy. Merely a number but one indicating the passing of a significant percentage of the allotted sand in an egg timer, with oneself the darn egg. The grains pour and I find myself missing the dead more than usual. I notice that I cry more when watching television, triggered by ”Marcus Aurelius asks us to note the passing of time with open eyes. Ten thousand years or ten thousand days, nothing can stop time, or change the fact that I would be turning seventy in the Year of the Monkey. Seventy. Merely a number but one indicating the passing of a significant percentage of the allotted sand in an egg timer, with oneself the darn egg. The grains pour and I find myself missing the dead more than usual. I notice that I cry more when watching television, triggered by romance, a retiring detective shot in the back while staring into the sea, a weary father lifting his infant from a crib. I notice that my own tears burn my eyes, that I am no longer a fast runner and that my sense of time seems to be accelerating.” This often reads as though it were written under a fever-dream and other times the random musings of the poet ”…plucking inspiration from the erratic air”, all the while trying to focus on the things which are established, and her memories of the years gone by. At this point in her life, she has just celebrated her 69th birthday, is contemplating turning seventy in the coming year, concerned over two friends whose health was rapidly fading, the then-coming election, all while drinking lots of coffee, and mourning those who have passed on, and feeling helpless toward those merely hanging on. ”There was work to be done, concerts to perform, lives to live, however carefully.” And the lives of two men that she loved would be gone before another year arrived. ”The wooden bed in the corner of the room seems so far away, and all is but an intermission, of small and tender consequences.” And as the new year starts winding toward the next one, the chants of the coming election seem inescapable, but her thoughts drift more often to her loved ones, both here and gone, the fragility and temporary nature of this one life we are given. Life, love, death, aging, politics, music, poetry, writers, reading, the economy, pollution, all these and more fill and fuel these pages. Some are filled with lovely thoughts, some with frustrations, and some with heartbreaking reminiscences. If you’ve read any of her former memoirs, you may remember of her penchant for including her photographs, ones that typically remind her of a time when someone she loved was there by her side, although there are many that are reminiscent of a place she visited. These things are not just ‘things,’ though, they are real moments in time, captured in some object whose significance may or may not be recognized by anyone else. Like a lullaby, they give her comfort. They are transportation back to that moment, allowing her to relive those feelings, those memories. ”I plodded up the stairs to my room reciting to myself, Once I was seven, soon I will be seventy. I was truly tired. Once I was seven, I repeated, sitting on the edge of the bed, still in my coat. “Our quiet rage gives us wings, the possibility to negotiate the gears winding backwards, uniting all time.” Years ago my brother sent me a box of books, and inside that box was a copy of her ‘Just Kids,’ and then when her ‘M Train’ came out, he sent that, as well – but after reading ‘Just Kids’ I would have bought my own copy, hoping that the magic was still there. I love the way she writes, and her personal stories that she shares. I didn’t think she could match her ‘Just Kids,’ and for some maybe she doesn’t, but I loved this as much, maybe just a smidgen more. I think for some it will be more relatable. ”…the trouble with dreaming is that we eventually wake up.” If you are not a reader who typically read the epilogue, do yourself a favour and make sure you read her final chapter, entitled A KIND OF EPILOGUE.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chris Molnar

    Just Kids is a romantic, bohemian coming of age memoir par excellence; I'm only slightly ashamed to say I moved to New York because of it. The follow-up M Train is not inspiring in the same way but still an interesting reflection of her peripatetic life as a respected middle aged artist exploring different mediums and interests. Year of the Monkey, on the other hand, is something much darker, and unintentionally so - a deep dive into the mindset of a rich, famous artist as they ward off the Just Kids is a romantic, bohemian coming of age memoir par excellence; I'm only slightly ashamed to say I moved to New York because of it. The follow-up M Train is not inspiring in the same way but still an interesting reflection of her peripatetic life as a respected middle aged artist exploring different mediums and interests. Year of the Monkey, on the other hand, is something much darker, and unintentionally so - a deep dive into the mindset of a rich, famous artist as they ward off the outside world with purple prose, self-serving games, and straightfoward denial. In her fantastical retelling of 2016, she playacts at the threadbare bohemian she used to be, her life a series of grimy diners and tough old friends, knit together with increasingly empty references to other books, and imaginary poor people who flit into her life like magical sprites full of wisdom. The level of meaningless verbiage is best captured in her description of Johnny Depp's portrayal of the Mad Hatter - "When Johnny Depp embraced the role of the Hatter he too was drawn into this multiplicity of being and ceased to be just Johnny." How does she get to this low point? The paragraph begins "March winds. March wedding. The ides of March. Josephine March. Numinous March with its strong associations. And of course there has always been the March Hare. I remember as a child being quite taken with the quirky Hare, sure that he and the Mad Hatter were one in the same, even sharing the same initials." Patti has based a long and fruitful career on freestyle Beat babble - check her out in Martin Scorsese's most recent Bob Dylan documentary, laying it down backstage as Dylan looks on in admiring bemusement. But there's something sour about it here, no core of need or curiosity, just wheels spinning. The low points come early, with a fully made up hitchhiking excursion featuring mixtape geniuses who don't recognize Patti Smith, cuddly caricatures of "normal" people and a premise that stopped being viable decades ago; worse, we meet an imaginary friend named Ernest - a Mexican fellow she meets in a bar who happens to share her obsession with Roberto Bolano. Not that stilted dialogue arguing about 2666 is bad per se - I love Bolano too, and her Polaroids here and in M Train of rare Bolanoabilia are excellent. But it reminded me of fan fiction, with a limp aimlessness much different from Bolano's own constant urgency. She tries to build the book towards Trump as climactic event, but she is so far removed from the consequences of his election that the best she can muster is a little bit of Daily Show-level wordjazz about migrants and a tidbit about how she heard LCD Soundsystem playing at the diner that night. Towards the end there are some strong musings on aging and death through the prism of her dying friend Sam Shepherd. But all in all you get the sense of someone who hasn't talked to a non-famous person in decades, who wishes more than anything that you still saw her as a salt of the earth type who rejects the trappings of fame and hitchhikes across the country. If it were true, it would be lovely, but rather than being autofiction that stretches reality for truth, it is autofiction that stretches reality for ego.

  3. 4 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    I love Patti Smith. I got to see her talk on a book tour of her last book M Train. It was great, part lecture, part reading, and part concert of her singing some great music. Ha, that's lots of parts. She is a must read for me without even reading the book description. So naturally, I bugged my library for the audio version. If you are going to immerse yourself in a Patti Smith book, the only way to do it is via the audio. I do think she is one of the better narrators out there. Year of the I love Patti Smith. I got to see her talk on a book tour of her last book M Train. It was great, part lecture, part reading, and part concert of her singing some great music. Ha, that's lots of parts. She is a must read for me without even reading the book description. So naturally, I bugged my library for the audio version. If you are going to immerse yourself in a Patti Smith book, the only way to do it is via the audio. I do think she is one of the better narrators out there. Year of the Monkey is a unique read. A somewhat dreamlike state, her telling her story of a year of wandering...in the Year of the Monkey. At one point, she hitches a ride with two people. I was shocked they had no idea who she was. Or was this all a dream. Anyway, Smith is extremely talented. I enjoy her stories and her talk of books, artists, and music. Though, I'm not hip to music and many times I had no idea who she talking about. But books and artists, all over that. You can tell of her enjoyment of Alice in Wonderland, making me want to revisit this book again. I liked to hear her talk about her relationships with people, especially Sam Shepard. I did have to laugh in the chapter 'Why Belinda Carter Matters'. Smith encounters such unique people and I just want to keep hearing more. It's a very short book, a little over 3 hrs. Shocking I was able to finish it in less than 24 hours. What can I say, life is busy. The book has photographs included that Smith took over time. Something missing from the audio, but I'll be sure to grab the print at some point. Obviously the audio was great narrated by her. It's funny, I have another of her books in print (somehow ended up with two copies) and I'm so torn, I want to read it but want to hear it. While I enjoyed this one, I really don't think anything can top Just Kids for me. Amazing book, great narration. One of my top 5 reads ever. I will be looking forward to the next Patti Smith book. Begging for it without reading the description, waiting for Smith to 'tell me' a story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    Patti Smith is back with a story told in her own style --part real and part "dream." There is talk of books and old friends, talk of the past and politics, and mysteries and good books. Smith is quickly becoming the last (wo)man standing from the New York punk scene. In fact, she loses two friends in telling the story of her 69th year. Full enjoyment of the book comes from the audio edition read by the author.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Surrealism in words. Free flowing thoughts, a fever dream, all can be used when experiencing this latest voyage through Smith's thoughts. An experience it is, interpretations, sometimes in dreams, sometimes in reality, non linear, but her words, descriptions are poetic. Starting with an old friend who is in the hospital dying, what he meant to her, taking her back to the past, comparisons with all she sees. Her last year before turning seventy in the year of the monkey. Her husband gone twenty Surrealism in words. Free flowing thoughts, a fever dream, all can be used when experiencing this latest voyage through Smith's thoughts. An experience it is, interpretations, sometimes in dreams, sometimes in reality, non linear, but her words, descriptions are poetic. Starting with an old friend who is in the hospital dying, what he meant to her, taking her back to the past, comparisons with all she sees. Her last year before turning seventy in the year of the monkey. Her husband gone twenty years now, her friend Sam Shepherd, struggling with ALS, her past, her dreams, all blending into the present, the future. A little talk of music, books, but mostly of signs, how things can be interpreted. Like Ali Smith, the nearest comparison i can make, though Ali is fiction, this Smith non, memoir, but both are unique in the writing field. Sometimes it was hard to decipher what was the dream, the actual experience? How does it apply to her reality now as it is, or was? Still can't quite figure Ernest's part, but despite that her words, the way she uses them often had me transfixed. Does her mind ever shutdown, her thoughts stop? I listened to this, she reads her own book and it was wonderful to hear her recent musings, thoughts, in her own smokey voice.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Ray

    Reading this was like being apart someone's dream with insight into their reflections and thoughts while with the feeling of suspension in time that dreams often evoke. Patti Smith writes about the year 2016, which is the Chinese Year of the Monkey. She spends time hitchhiking and relating her free spirited journey to various places in America while subsequently reminiscing on life, loss, aging, and politics. The dreamlike quality lasts throughout, and it is hard to know what is real and what is Reading this was like being apart someone's dream with insight into their reflections and thoughts while with the feeling of suspension in time that dreams often evoke. Patti Smith writes about the year 2016, which is the Chinese Year of the Monkey. She spends time hitchhiking and relating her free spirited journey to various places in America while subsequently reminiscing on life, loss, aging, and politics. The dreamlike quality lasts throughout, and it is hard to know what is real and what is illusion. Her polaroids (that she is known for) are interspersed throughout adding to the feeling of floating through time that she has fashioned in this artistic and graceful memoir.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Richard Z.

    Patti Smith is a poet warrior who's maybe reaching her peak as the country reaches a low point. This book is hypnotic and , as the title warns you, dream like. Long sections are hallucinatory, inspired, and it's impossible to tell what's real and what's not real but still truthful. This is a book about loss--Sam Shepherd to ALS, Sandy Pearlman to a cerebral hemorrhage, America to its President. Smith lives in a dreamy world of poetry and opera. Spending a few hours dreaming with her is a Patti Smith is a poet warrior who's maybe reaching her peak as the country reaches a low point. This book is hypnotic and , as the title warns you, dream like. Long sections are hallucinatory, inspired, and it's impossible to tell what's real and what's not real but still truthful. This is a book about loss--Sam Shepherd to ALS, Sandy Pearlman to a cerebral hemorrhage, America to its President. Smith lives in a dreamy world of poetry and opera. Spending a few hours dreaming with her is a privilege.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Patti Smith's latest memoir recounts the happenings of her life in 2016, which, somewhat unsurprisingly, was the year of the monkey (猴年) in the Chinese zodiac. The reader follows Smith as she hitchhikes around the U.S. while grappling with the death and illness of two close friends. I loved the first half of this - it felt reminiscent of some of Joan Didion's writing at times, dreamy passages about California and life in "the in-between". It lost steam a little for me in the second half, but Patti Smith's latest memoir recounts the happenings of her life in 2016, which, somewhat unsurprisingly, was the year of the monkey (猴年) in the Chinese zodiac. The reader follows Smith as she hitchhikes around the U.S. while grappling with the death and illness of two close friends. I loved the first half of this - it felt reminiscent of some of Joan Didion's writing at times, dreamy passages about California and life in "the in-between". It lost steam a little for me in the second half, but still made for an enjoyable introduction to Smith's writing. Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Goodson

    Alternating between lucid memoir and mystical, dreamlike sketches of the world around her, Patti Smith spends The Year of the Monkey dreading and mourning the loss of her friends and America as it once was. It's strange, beautiful, troubling, comforting.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Harry McDonald

    “It’s the dried-up-poet syndrome, necessitating plucking inspiration from the erratic air,” Patti Smith might be the great articulator of loss. So much of her work draws explicitly on it, all the way back to Horses. Her most famous book, Just Kids, was written out of a deathbed promise she made. Year of the Monkey, her account of 2016, is a lyrical tale that starts Smith tramping the west coast of America, a long way from the New York she’s spent so much of her prose describing. “Anything can “It’s the dried-up-poet syndrome, necessitating plucking inspiration from the erratic air,” Patti Smith might be the great articulator of loss. So much of her work draws explicitly on it, all the way back to Horses. Her most famous book, Just Kids, was written out of a deathbed promise she made. Year of the Monkey, her account of 2016, is a lyrical tale that starts Smith tramping the west coast of America, a long way from the New York she’s spent so much of her prose describing. “Anything can happen in the year of the monkey,” someone tells her. This is a year she saw in with someone vomiting on her boots. No wonder there is a sense of existential dread she seems to feel, as the year flies by and her 70th birthday draws nearer. The losses at the heart of this book are that of Sandy Pearlman, her long-time friend and collaborator, and Sam Shepard, playwright, actor and her former boyfriend. Both of these men appeared in Just Kids, in the 60s and 70s, in the prime of their lives. Here, they are sick and dying. Smith assists Shepard assemble his final manuscript, as he is near bed-ridden. They both look at the horses on his ranch, neither talking of how it is impossible for Shepard to ride again. Part of what Smith articulates so beautifully is how ultimately, the punk philosophy – that anything can happen, that any word can mean anything, that everything is up for grabs – is a lie. Or, it is at least not permanent. People can’t (and don’t) live forever, and it throws everything else into question. It had never occurred to me that this book slides into fiction, I didn’t read the blurb beforehand. There are strange moments in the first half of the book, but nothing outside the realms of possibility. Eventually she throws you into a total dreamscape, apocalyptic images, a sense of existential dread drawn in increasingly blurred lines as the narrative fragments into shorter and shorter chapters. Smith mourns her late friend Allen Ginsberg, knowing he would have thrown himself into the political maelstrom in a way that she implies she is not able to. The book does stay away from explicitly talking about the 2016 election – for the most part. But then again, a narrative that starts fairly recognisable and tumbles into a series of apocalypses… what describes the political landscape of 2016 more accurately than that? Like her other work, images reoccur: Medea, Samuel Beckett, Alice in Wonderland and the Tenniel illustrations in particular. Even the abstract ramblings of Smith’s life are steeped in a mythology that is unmistakeably, inimitably hers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jules Kelly

    It's Patti Smith's world, and we're just lucky to be living in it. —Have actually you've seen it? I asked. —You don't see things like that. You feel them, as in all important things; they arrive, they come into your dreams.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    "Nothing is ever solved. Solving is an illusion. There are moments of spontaneous brightness, when the mind appears emancipated, but that is mere epiphany." Since I've loved Patti Smith for as long as I can remember, it was clear that I would pick this new memoir up on release day, even though her other recent one, M Train , was a bitter disappointment—I liked this better than that last attempt, but only marginally so, not enough to warrant a full additional star. Everything that worked in "Nothing is ever solved. Solving is an illusion. There are moments of spontaneous brightness, when the mind appears emancipated, but that is mere epiphany." Since I've loved Patti Smith for as long as I can remember, it was clear that I would pick this new memoir up on release day, even though her other recent one, M Train , was a bitter disappointment—I liked this better than that last attempt, but only marginally so, not enough to warrant a full additional star. Everything that worked in Just Kids ' favor now falls flat. What once could be accepted as the endearing bohemian quirks of a poor, struggling artist, now read as the eccentricities of an aging spinster who, despite her fame and fortune, is still trying to hold on to a different time. Her prose might still exhibit some sparks of introspective beauty every once in a while, but most of the time it feels somewhat contrived, if not exactly insincere. Then, other times, it just reads like gibberish. Recognizable reality is woven into Patti's own world of dreams and visions, where fact and fiction blend together in poetry, and I was often torn between wishing I could see things as she does, and thinking that a weird, babbly sort of senility must've caught up with her at last. I had the distinct impression that her mind seemed to aimlessly wander more than it used to when I last saw her live (in the Year of the Goat, the year before the one this memoir concerns itself with), and I can see it reflected in her writing, too. It's a harsh thing, seeing one's heroes grow old. In M Train, she made a point about writing about nothing at all, while there is a certain theme throughout Year of the Monkey, which chronicles her solitary wandering in 2016, coming off a tour, and approaching her seventieth birthday, with her signature polaroids interspersed throughout. It was a year with many unexpected turns that had her grappling with loss, change, and her own aging... and the dramatic results of the US election. While most of the book feels somewhat intangible—it's the dreamy recollection of a turbulent, watershed year, after all—I thought that she finally found her flow and thread towards the end as she muses about mortality... and then the book ends. Part of the charm of her writing has always been the way she writes about the very mundane, but she often takes it too far here—I wish she'd spent less time recounting her meals in grimy diners in minute detail, and more time putting fleeting feelings into words, something she can do so well when she turns her pen and mind to it—I love her art, but I don't care what she had for breakfast on a January morning in 2016. The last few chapters of the book, when she stepped back and considered the larger picture that the changed political landscape entails, and worked in her considerations about death and aging when Sam Shepard passed on, were much more powerful than the dreamlike, stream-of-consciousness musings that preceded it, and they left me dissatisfied, because I wanted more of the good stuff. All in all, it's worth reading if you're a fan, but I found it a meager, stilted offering, somewhat redeemed only by the last quarter, which had some insight to offer, while the rest lacked depth and emotion. I'll keep her records and Just Kids close to my heart, but I unfortunately don't think that her prose is for me, otherwise. ————— All my book reviews can be found here · Buy on BookDepository

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    I feel like I read this book in a dream, which is fitting.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kivrin Engle

    "Smith melds the western landscape with her own dreamscape in a haunting, poetic blend of fact and fiction." (From the book jacket) How could I not fall in love with Patti’s storyscape which begins on New Year’s Day, in Santa Cruz, at our one beachfront hotel, Dream Inn? When I walk past the Dream Inn’s sign now, I will half-expect it to converse with me as it did with Patti. Or was she merely dreamin’? I remember this New Year’s Day. I was out walking, wandering through the stillness of a quiet "Smith melds the western landscape with her own dreamscape in a haunting, poetic blend of fact and fiction." (From the book jacket) How could I not fall in love with Patti’s storyscape which begins on New Year’s Day, in Santa Cruz, at our one beachfront hotel, Dream Inn? When I walk past the Dream Inn’s sign now, I will half-expect it to converse with me as it did with Patti. Or was she merely dreamin’? I remember this New Year’s Day. I was out walking, wandering through the stillness of a quiet coastal gray morning. I knew Ms. Smith was in town & I was wishing our paths would cross. Who knows? I might have become a character within her woven wordscape. I am content for now though, to have journeyed through her musings with her. It is always an honor to inhabit her wild, wise mind even for just awhile. Perhaps one day, we’ll sit together over a cup of good coffee, a plate of cinnamon toast & talk of dreams, loss & love, shards of love.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen deVries

    Seems like people either love this one or are bitterly disappointed. Count me among those who love it. For a few of my grad school years, I lived within a mile of Santa Cruz’s Dream Inn, which is where the story begins. Loved the way its sign signified so much throughout, especially the thin line between dreaming and reality. Smith’s writing here, particularly the magical realist moments, is stunningly beautiful and powerful. I’ve always loved the way she weaves threads of her knowledge of Seems like people either love this one or are bitterly disappointed. Count me among those who love it. For a few of my grad school years, I lived within a mile of Santa Cruz’s Dream Inn, which is where the story begins. Loved the way its sign signified so much throughout, especially the thin line between dreaming and reality. Smith’s writing here, particularly the magical realist moments, is stunningly beautiful and powerful. I’ve always loved the way she weaves threads of her knowledge of Biblical texts through what I consider to be her larger secular, existentialist, poetic meditations on life and death. This book delivers on these themes exponentially. I greatly appreciated her deep dives into loss and suffering and despair (both in life in general and in our current political nightmare) while also managing to maintain a pilot light of hope. See, for instance, this quote: “This is what I know. My brother is dead. My mother is dead. My father is dead. My husband is dead. My cat is dead. And my dog who was dead in 1957 is still dead. Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen. Maybe tomorrow. A tomorrow following a whole succession of tomorrows.” One last favorite quote. Trump has just won the election and Christmas is approaching. She writes, “How did it come to such a bad end? Another case of imbalanced social outcry. Silent, silent night. Assault rifles wrapped in foil stacked beneath artificial trees decorated with tiny golden calves, targets set up in the backs of snow-covered yards.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Patti Smith is the quintessential bohemian. When I read about the books and music and poetry and art and clothing she likes, it describes exactly what I would have pictured when I first learned that bohemianism was a thing. Even the places she chooses to live, with leaky roofs and weird furniture and seemingly everything falling apart, speak to her unconventional nature. She's not trying to be cool or trendy. It's just who she is. One night she can't sleep, so she takes the top sheet off her Patti Smith is the quintessential bohemian. When I read about the books and music and poetry and art and clothing she likes, it describes exactly what I would have pictured when I first learned that bohemianism was a thing. Even the places she chooses to live, with leaky roofs and weird furniture and seemingly everything falling apart, speak to her unconventional nature. She's not trying to be cool or trendy. It's just who she is. One night she can't sleep, so she takes the top sheet off her bed, tacks it to the wall, and starts painting on it! I think what I enjoy most about reading her work is that she is so far removed from everything I know about. Not just her tastes, but also the way she lives her life. How many 69-year-old women do you know who would take rides from complete strangers to get from San Francisco to San Diego? I liked portions of this book, but I found the narrative a bit choppy, especially because she slips into descriptions of her vivid dream sequences without telling us. So it's hard to tell what really happened and what she dreamed. I've never cared much for hearing people tell about their elaborate dreams. I definitely enjoyed her Polaroid photos scattered throughout the book, though. It made me wish for a Polaroid camera of my own.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Todd Glaeser

    There are very few voices as distinctive as Patti's, both as a writer and as a narrator. This is what I was looking for in her last poetry book. (Perhaps I should listen to the audiobook of that. My opinion could change.) I'd like to think that I have been a friend like Sandy Pearlman and Sam Shepard, or that my friends will memorialize me as Smith does. I was surprised by Smith's pronunciation of some words, pilla for pillow, soprana for soprano.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Coleen

    This non-fiction book [at least I think it is] written by Patti Smith in the Year of the Monkey, 2016, seems to relate to the happenings of her 70 th year of life. She was born in 1946 - one year before I was. And I could relate to a lot of what she wrote - except that she had -and has- a lot more energy and vitality and get-up-and-go than I ever did. Music, art, literature, poetry...she was and is a very creative person. Not only has she done it all, but she has also experienced and read what This non-fiction book [at least I think it is] written by Patti Smith in the Year of the Monkey, 2016, seems to relate to the happenings of her 70 th year of life. She was born in 1946 - one year before I was. And I could relate to a lot of what she wrote - except that she had -and has- a lot more energy and vitality and get-up-and-go than I ever did. Music, art, literature, poetry...she was and is a very creative person. Not only has she done it all, but she has also experienced and read what she didn't do. Writers and authors and books that I was certainly familiar with, but a LOT that I was not. And I read a LOT. Her story involved a lot of dreaming and imagination so sometimes [often] it was puzzling to determine what was real and what was not. But I think that was part of what she intended. Her many intriguing photos accompany each chapter and I thought the book would have been better if she had identified them. That was UNTIL I found that she had the illustrations identified in the back of the book with each page number where it could be found. YES! I agreed with her statement that the silent rule and it [the election] will be decided by them, those who do not vote. That is curiously why each candidate in every election pushes all voters to vote - preferably for them, and not only in New York and California. There are 48 other states with voters also. That is how elections are won. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    While pockets of this were moving, it mostly was an underwhelming read for me. The epilogue pieces together reflections and connections with the subject matter that I feel I needed more of throughout the book, though I did enjoy how introspective and contemplative Smith’s writing was.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Manda

    Oh, I really wanted to love this book but it wasn't anything like I imagined it to be. I adored 'Just Kids' and 'M Train' was just wonderful, they were both life-changing books for me but 'Year of the Monkey' was just too odd (and I like odd!) but this was almost like reading gibberish at times. There were too many vague references and I felt like she was trying to be a bit like Murakami weaving dreams into reality but I don't think that works when you're writing a memoir, as I had a hard time Oh, I really wanted to love this book but it wasn't anything like I imagined it to be. I adored 'Just Kids' and 'M Train' was just wonderful, they were both life-changing books for me but 'Year of the Monkey' was just too odd (and I like odd!) but this was almost like reading gibberish at times. There were too many vague references and I felt like she was trying to be a bit like Murakami weaving dreams into reality but I don't think that works when you're writing a memoir, as I had a hard time deciphering what was real and what wasn't. It was all over the place and at times just didn't make sense :( Ahhhhh, I really wanted to love this but I just didn't and I'm sad. Really sad. I'm sorry Patti :(

  21. 5 out of 5

    Debbi

    Brilliant and unpretentious, I love Patti Smith. This book, is more like a meditation than a memoir. It is a year of dreaming, death and change. Some of the sequences didn't speak to me, but in the end it didn't matter. It was wonderful to spend a few hours with such an amazing and wise person.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    I love a Patti Smith book. Getting to see the world through her eyes is a joy and I’m always very lonely and sad when her books end. The way she notices the world around her is true art and I’m so grateful she writes it down and shares it with us.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

    More fiction-ish than her past books, with passages that might be dreams or might be real life. Her dark thoughts about the current administration, and concern about issues such as climate change and immigration, come through clearly, though. On a side note, it seems like Patti Smith doesn't really need to be taking rides from strangers anymore. I was a little worried for her.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emily Rems

    In the time since her exquisite memoir Just Kids won the National Book Award in 2010, godmother of punk Patti Smith has been documenting her travels with her pen and trusty Polaroid. In Year of the Monkey, her wanderlust drives her at age 69 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Arizona to Kentucky to her home in New York where plans for Australia take shape. Along the way, she meets fellow nomads, she mourns for loved ones both in the process of dying and long gone, and she drinks a whole lot of In the time since her exquisite memoir Just Kids won the National Book Award in 2010, godmother of punk Patti Smith has been documenting her travels with her pen and trusty Polaroid. In Year of the Monkey, her wanderlust drives her at age 69 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Arizona to Kentucky to her home in New York where plans for Australia take shape. Along the way, she meets fellow nomads, she mourns for loved ones both in the process of dying and long gone, and she drinks a whole lot of coffee. A keen observer of the world around her, Smith is equally adept at documenting her inner terrain. But this travelogue is far more abstract than her previous work. Smith weaves in and out of dreaming and waking life without warning and no matter how real her characters appear, there is no telling when they will be revealed as figments of the author’s imagination. It’s difficult to make peace with Smith as an unreliable narrator after the steadfast clarity of her previous works. But wherever she wanders, it’s always worth the trip.

  25. 5 out of 5

    tortoise dreams

    In her third memoir, Punk poet Patti Smith selects moments from 2016, an election year and the Year of the Monkey. Memoir Review: Year of the Monkey, as with her two previous memoirs, Just Kids and M Train, remembers lost friends and lovers. Just as she eulogized Robert Mapplethorpe and her husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith in those books, here she focuses on playwright Sam Shepard and writer Sandy Pearlman. Lamenting those passed is a theme Patti Smith has addressed as far back as her memorable first In her third memoir, Punk poet Patti Smith selects moments from 2016, an election year and the Year of the Monkey. Memoir Review: Year of the Monkey, as with her two previous memoirs, Just Kids and M Train, remembers lost friends and lovers. Just as she eulogized Robert Mapplethorpe and her husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith in those books, here she focuses on playwright Sam Shepard and writer Sandy Pearlman. Lamenting those passed is a theme Patti Smith has addressed as far back as her memorable first album, Horses (1975), which included the song "Elegie" dedicated to Jimi Hendrix ("my head is aching as I dream and breathe"). Year of the Monkey relates occasional events from 2016 and as in her previous works (including the short book Devotion in the "Why I Write" series) she expands on her belief in the power of objects, memory, ritual, sympathetic magic, the importance of people she's known, places she's been, her deep emotional reactions, and gives wide latitude to whimsy and the creativity latent in the world. Her reflections on books she's read (Roberto Bolano's 2666; Meditations by Marcus Aurelius) are high points. As 2016 was an election year in the U.S., Year of the Monkey incorporates a fair share of Trump bashing also. Compared to the books mentioned above, this one has the smallest palette, is the most self-indulgent (why constantly describe her unappetizing breakfasts), and the most fictionalized, but at age 70 perhaps she's earned that right and it's easy enough for the reader to indulge her in this short memoir. Even as Patti Smith laments "the dried-up-poet syndrome," her poetic soul is never far from the surface. [3★]

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    If M Train is a book about loneliness in the face of grief and mourning, I interpret Year of the Monkey as a book about loneliness in the face of aging and mortality. In Smith’s words: “this is what I know. Sam is dead. My brother is dead. My mother is dead. My father is dead. My husband is dead. My cat is dead. My dog who was dead in 1957 is still dead. Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen. Maybe tomorrow.” She has these thoughts after she endures the election If M Train is a book about loneliness in the face of grief and mourning, I interpret Year of the Monkey as a book about loneliness in the face of aging and mortality. In Smith’s words: “this is what I know. Sam is dead. My brother is dead. My mother is dead. My father is dead. My husband is dead. My cat is dead. My dog who was dead in 1957 is still dead. Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen. Maybe tomorrow.” She has these thoughts after she endures the election of Donald Trump, whom she describes as the "worst of us." That was a surreal election for many, and it is here tied to a surreal depiction of aging. On the one hand, people in Smith's life are passing or have passed, yet their memories remain vivid for her. Year of the Monkey often feels, well, psychedelic, even if it’s literally about a mostly sober person who drinks too much coffee. It repeatedly alludes to Alice in Wonderland and it takes some comfort in paradoxes and proverbs. “Nothing is ever solved. Solving is an illusion.” At another point, Smith reflects: “The things that transport us can be so random. It was definitely time to get moving, but an hour later I was still there.” I wonder what it would be like to have lived Smith's life and then to see DT elected. "Surreal," yes, but maybe also it would feel like the universe was playing a trick on you in the Year of the Monkey. At one point, one of Smith's dying friends says he no longer is sure what is real. I suppose if I were Patti Smith, I'd want to feel lucky just vagabonding about the nation in a poorly fitted, mostly dilapidated jacket. 3.5.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    "We stood on either side of him, promising to mentally hold on to him, keep an open channel, ready to intercept and accept any signal. Not just shards of love, as Sandy would say, but the whole goblet." "This is what I know. Sam is dead. My brother is dead. My mother is dead. My father is dead. My husband is dead. My cat is dead. My dog who was dead in 1957 is still dead. Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen. Maybe tomorrow. A tomorrow following a whole succession "We stood on either side of him, promising to mentally hold on to him, keep an open channel, ready to intercept and accept any signal. Not just shards of love, as Sandy would say, but the whole goblet." "This is what I know. Sam is dead. My brother is dead. My mother is dead. My father is dead. My husband is dead. My cat is dead. My dog who was dead in 1957 is still dead. Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen. Maybe tomorrow. A tomorrow following a whole succession of tomorrows." This book, written in the Year of the Monkey (2016), was heartbreaking in that two of Smith's closest and longtime friends after long illnesses passed away. And yet, after a lifetime of loss, she still finds hope and beauty in the world.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    I don’t think these should be reviews or book reports. I think our comments should be reactions, meaningful parts and takeaways. That said there is something about Smith’s books that totally suck me in. Partly because her life is so foreign to my own and partly because I often wonder what the h she is writing about. But the literary illusions and the gutsy raw life is amazing to me. I’m scared of her.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Dickson

    Truly beautiful. A kind and warm elegy to so many things. Age, love, friends, intellect, loss. The mystery of dreams and the mystery of life in trying times. This book is a blessing of insight and imagination. I loved it deeply and will return to it soon.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Featherbooks

    She's aging, illustrious friends are dying, yet she keeps dreaming her poetic fantasies, reading, drinking cafe coffee, making music and traveling. The wonder persists "seeking the extended hand of humankind.." amidst "heart wrenching injustices constituting the new facts of life" in this America.

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