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Year of the Monkey 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. “A mortal folly comes over the world”—Antonin Artaud“Anything is possible, he said After all, it’s the Year of the Monkey.”Year of the Monkey is the third memoir from punk rocker and National Book Award winner (Just Kids) Patti Smith, and it is making a lot of bestoftheyear lists It’s short, a smallish book, filled with Smith’s signature Polaroids as she documents a year when she turned seventy, 2016, the Year of the Monkey, which is as you may recall is the same year Trump was elected.There’s a lot of sadness in this book, but it is not about Trump, at least not initially He’s always in the shadows in the early essays that represent events that take place in the runup to the election, as a kind of foreboding, and the last chapter is a kind of lament/outcry postelection, but the gist of this book is about the loss of two of her best friends, the writers Sandy Pearlman and Sam Shepherd As with much of life, it’s about dealingandregularly with grief as a condition of life as one ages, but this is what she finally feels about life after dealing with all these losses, in case you think this might be too sad to read:“Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen Maybe tomorrow.”The spirit of this book is positive, hopeful, very much embracing life It opens with Smith checking into the Dream Inn, and quite a bit of what happens (in California, at least) erases the difference between memory, observation and dream One character she hangs out with, Ernest? I don’t even know he exists, except in her solitary, creative mind The text reads to me sometimes as speculative nonfiction, sometimes surreal but never random, always relevant.“When I reentered the room I could see that I was still sleeping, so I waited, with the window was open, till I awoke.”“It seemed like I had walked for miles, yet everything stayed the same.”A lyrical punk rocker, at 70? Yet she always was, and some of the writing here to open the book is from the poet she has always been:“Happy new year to the waxing moon, the telepathic sea.”“Ashen birds circling the city dusted with night.”“ sorrow’s vertigo.”Images recur: birds, candy wrappers, cups of coffee, missing children, Medea, monkey gods The repetition and synchronicity of dream logic.Smith reflects on and sometimes has discussions throughout with various people about literature; in Venice Beach she has a discussion with some folks about Roberto Bolano’s masterwork, 2666, completed as he was dying Fictional dreams within dreams within dreams Her amulets for protection as she faces grief and the decline of so much in this time are like mine, like many of yours: The arts, reading, paying attention as she does in the notebook she carries everywhere As I read this book I drank tea from my Year of the Monkey cup, which I got from Chinatown here in Chicago I got it in 2016, (see above, the Year of the Monkey) and will always now associate the cup (oddly, yin/yang?) with Smith and Trump, and my own losses of that year and this as I myself age I began to read it on my birthday, January 6, or twelfth night, or The Epiphany I didn't love all of the shortest essays as much as I did the ones on Sandy and Sam, but still, this book lives on in me now like a dream I too hope daily that something wonderful is about to happen, and truthfully, every day something wonderful does Marcus Aurelius, Meditations: “Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to live.” NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEARFrom the National Book Awardwinning 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 yearFollowing a run of concerts at San Francisco's legendary Fill, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz Unfettered by logic or time, she draws us into her private wonderland as 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 Smithinveterately curious, always exploringthe 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 AmericaSmith 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 worldRiveting, 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 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 wanderingin 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 hearingIt'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. Patti Smith is nothing if not a wordsmith I would love to spend a day in her head, because her brain is a fascinating one Year of the Monkey is kind of a memoir of Patti living a kind of vagabond existence for one year of her life (2016 I believe), but it also veers into an area where reality and fiction are blurred It becomes quite odd at times, and I can't say I loved all of it But for the most part I was in such a quiet little zone reading this, I felt really detached from reality like I was wandering the streets with Patti herself, and that was great There is something so comforting about her describing something as mundane as getting breakfast and endless cups of coffee, and I can't imagine ever not enjoying that. This is a year in the life of Patti Smith and it’s wrapped up like a dream We start out and she is on the California coast at the Dream Inn Her life friend Sam, I'm not sure if they’re married or not, is dying She wraps her life up with this ‘life is but a dream’ imagery I love her prose and how she entangles all these events together She is moving about the country She goes to San Francisco and Kentucky and New York and ends up in Virginia Beach She is a rambler.This is 2016, the year of the Monkey and the Monkey is about the trickster She brings the election of Trump into this mischief, but she never names him.She is trying to make sense of her world and I feel she is taking stock of the life she has lived and boiling her life down to essentials She has lost a lot of people in her life at this point of being 70 She has a way with ideas and words This was an enjoyable read for me I’m so glad I picked it up I want to read M Train by her Maybe Woolgathering as well She puts you in a different headspace It’s not about plot or conflict It’s philosophy, it’s prose, it’s ideas and it’s people and what she can make out about that I generally read very plot driven stories I do love a plot driven story, but sometimes that gets old and this is a breath of fresh air for me Life doesn’t always need to be driven by plot and neither does fiction Sometimes people are interesting enough on their own I think I might be a character driven reader. [6/10]As with most Patti Smith books, I think I'll enjoy this one thetime I ponder it and when I inevitably read it again It's very dreamy and wandering, about a year in her life where she was a sort of vagabond So the prose meanders as well and it's hard to find your footing Nevertheless, as I always say, I love Smith's writing style and will read whatever she puts out And I'll be sure to revisit this one again in the future. There are books I love not just for what they are in themselves, but for the quality of the ideas they stimulate within me, their lingering effect The Year of the Monkey is such a book In a year ruled by a trickster, in a year of monkey wrenches and monkeyshines, political dire straits (2016 is the Year of the Monkey)all a woman can do is respond to what the universe kicks up, open to the implications of the random, following where they lead Smith is 69, going to be seventy, when she takes to the road in this dreamscape of a book which I take to be largely fictional, peppered by moments from life Dreams (it begins with a stay at Santa Cruz's Dream Inn, a remade surfer luxe motel, the sign of which speaks to her) thread the book together, as do touchstones of beloved authors and poets (this book is haunted by the work and life of Roberto Bolano, who also died young), and places which link memory to the present, and a myriad of losses which like earthquake aftershocks reverberate through the book At 69, mortality is never far from Smith's mind, and the reality of the dead and dying lifelong friends fading, beloved husband and brother takenmelds with the mystery of the present moment Chance encounters real or imagined threaded into a quest, kind of a magical mystery tour, where she follows the chain of chance and coincidencechance being the poetic language of the universe, and Smith is always the poet, looking for signs and wonders, 'reading' scraps of paper on a beach as a sign, which link to other scraps, in memory and in the succeeding scenes, in a way that recalls The Crying of Lot 49 This is a universe you not only speak to, but which speaks in return I found myself opening up to that language as I was reading the book, noticing in what way the world was sending me these kinds of messages and metaphors If taken to the extreme, this is schizophrenia, but if embraced with the knowledge that this is the symbolic world, it refreshes one's own connection to life and the self.Patti Smith aims to sandpaper the grime of accustomed living off your sensibility, which few books even attempt to do She is eternally a pilgrim, looking for sources of awe and inspiration, moments of contact with the mysterious processes of the world Taking this journey with her doesn't put her beyond our judgementwhy did she run out on her dying friend? So she doesn't like hospitals who does?but at 69, having lost her best friend Robert Mappelthorpbe, her husband Fred Sonic Smith, andrecently her brother Frank, I can certainly understand She has done her hitch, and will be doing , as we see when she visits Sam Shepard, succumbing to ALS in Kentucky Sometimes she does feel like the last man standing And yet she still ventures on her pilgrimages, revisiting sites which have resonance within her personal canon or literary memory, opening herself to the random invitation, pursuing the chain of chance, as themes arise and recur, as varied as Belinda Carlisle, We've got the Beat to the Ghent Altarpiece to Pessoa's Lisbon.Her imaginativeness inspires me every time Here she is in San Diego, where she has hitchhiked in a fictional series of events: I checked into the old San Vicente Hotel, which hadn't changed much in the decades save in name I was happy to be back in my same room on the second floor Once I had imagined living in this room, cloaked in obscurity, writing detective stories (Her passion for detective stories forms another motif.) But it's that sense of who you are now haunted by the self you'd been which moved me It recurs throughout the book, often in relation to the people who she is losing, who knew her when they were both young, and now It was all so close, the rays of the sun, the sweetness, a sense of time lost foreverStaring at my image on the mercurial surface of the the toaster, I noticed I looked young and old simultaneously.Seventy Merely a number but one indicating the passing of a significant percentage of the allotted sand in an egg timer, with oneself as the darn egg The grain pour and I find myself missing the deadthan usual I notice that I crywhen watching television, triggered by romance, a retiring detective shot in the back while staring into the sea 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. ”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 deadthan usual I notice that I crywhen 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 feverdream 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 thencoming 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 driftoften 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 andfill 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 smidgenI think for some it will berelatable ”…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.


About the Author: Patti Smith

PATTI SMITH is a writer, performer, and visual artist She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone Smith had her first exhibit of drawings at the Gotham Book Mart in 1973 and has been represented by the Robert Miller Ga


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