Year of the Monkey (Hardcover)
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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 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.
About the Author
PATTI SMITH is the author of Just Kids, which won the National Book Award in 2010, and of M Train, as well as numerous collections of poetry and essays. Her seminal album Horses has been hailed as one of the top 100 albums of all time. In 2005, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Smith the title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres; she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
“It was a year of disruption, wandering, dreams and surreal visions: this year of the monkey on the Chinese zodiac was also the year Smith turned 70, and a trickster election hurled the country into a dark looking-glass realm. Smith writes with fresh lucidity, wit, bittersweet wonder, and stoic sorrow, shifting in tone from lyrical to hallucinatory to hard-boiled as she describes her meditative and investigative meanderings along the Pacific coast and in the desert. Keenly sensitive to atmosphere, she finds herself ‘in the middle of the unexplained’ as she travels with cosmic spontaneity and ‘an almost religious simplicity’ . . . She remembers her life-saving childhood library and a cherished, then dying friend. Smith also chronicles with exquisite poignancy her last visits with her soul mate Sam Shepherd . . . Elegiac, vital, and magical.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist [starred review]
“Luminous . . . Smith wanders between waking and dreaming in a year filled with the death of a close friend and the political turmoil of the 2016 election . . . In light of her 70th birthday, she writes lyrically on various subjects: she describes Allen Ginsberg’s poetry, which she carries along her travels, as an ‘expansive hydrogen bomb;’ caught up in Belinda Carlisle’s infectious beat, she imagines a ‘nonviolent hubris spreading across the land.’ She discovers that her most meaningful insights come from her vivid dreams, and she feels a palpable melancholia over having to wake up from them. Smith casts a mesmerizing spell with exquisite prose.”
—Publishers Weekly [starred review]
“Intriguing—a memoir that evolves around the transformations both in Smith’s life and the American political landscape. Disturbing yet humorous, with the boundary between fiction and nonfiction blurred, Smith’s work is unlikely to disappoint.”
—Jianan Qian, The Millions
“Captivating . . . a chronicle of a year filled with deep losses and rich epiphanies. The titular year, 2016, set Smith, [who] refers to herself as the ‘poet detective,’ on a quixotic quest, with a mysterious companion unexpectedly reappearing amid a backdrop of rock touring, vagabond traveling, and a poisonous political landscape. Throughout, Smith ponders time and mortality—no surprise considering her milestone birthday, and the experience of losing friends who have meant so much to her. She stresses the importance of memory, and the timeless nature of a person's spirit . . . Redemptive.”
—Kirkus [starred review]