As I first started reading Patti Smith’s work, M Train, I was torn. Torn because I loved to get lost in her world, and also upset because she had the luxury of being lost in it on a daily basis, and well, I didn’t. I felt like I was living in the “real world.” Whatever that means. Is it trying to find enough time to spend with my kids? Having enough money to pay the rent? Finding a meal when there’s nothing in your pocket? Being behind bars, and feeling like you can shut me out, but you can’t shut me down?
I put the book down for a while, with a little jealousy in my heart, and an obscure need to drink coffee… I have always loved hanging out in coffee shops, reading, but never really drank too much coffee. I picked up M Train again, finished it, and decided I loved it. I also started drinking coffee, and found I loved it too. Thank you, Patti Smith, I am addicted.
A few months later, I chose to begin listening to Just Kids by Patti Smith in the car. It’s read by the author herself, and again I was lost in her world…pure enjoyment. Then I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World and Me, and again my perception of reality was flipped. What is the “real world?” The “dream” that Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to and that “everyone” is searching for… Patti Smith’s “dream world” is much different than the one Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about. Yet, both are a way to live in what could be construed as a fantasy world.
I’m still new to coffee, trying to figure out why one small cup at home leaves me wanting for another, but one small cup at Bleak House almost gives me the jitters and helps me work on my days when I’m feeling less than productive. I’m also still figuring out what my dream is, how that fits into my perceived reality and the dream that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about. How my dream differs because my skin is not coffee-colored…but it is about quality of life. We as humans all journey and yearn for good health, like to feel useful and have skills to contribute to our community, time to spend with the ones we love, just simply having someone who loves us. Right? Bildungsroman…
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wrote this blog post in June 2016 and sat on it, not sure why. Much has changed in “the world,” and I noticed the term “dreamers” is used in a much different context in the United States. Still exploring that one…
More information on the books featured in this blog post …
From the National Book Award–winning author of Just Kids (also available in Audio, eBook, and eAudio), told through the prism of the cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world. It is a book Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.”
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 multiplatform artists at work today.
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
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