Year of the Monkey

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Reading this, I found myself wondering whether it would have been published if it hadn't been written by Patti Smith.  That is not to say that is not beautifully written, broad in its range or powerful in its description of both the personal and the edges where the personal and the political meet. The Year of the Monkey is travelogue, autobiography, diary of 2016 and essay.  I didn't see the echoes of Didion that others have (would that be said if Smith were a man?), but plenty of other traces and influences - Kerouac and Sebald for example in the merging of dream, travel writing and speculation.  Smith writes at one point that her writing evokes "a comic uneasiness", which is a nice, if not necessarily accurate, description.  Towards the end of the book, reflecting on the deaths of so many people and at the end of what at best could be called a challenging year, she adds "Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen".  That is why we should be happy that it has been published, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read it.
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Another pleasantly meandering memoir, full of musings on art, memory, and breakfast. Despite the poignant focus on ageing and grief, the overall affect is soothing and meditative, like waves lapping against the shore.
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Just Kids is one of the finest books I've ever read. I devoured it from cover to cover. It left me wanting more. Year of the Monkey is more complex for me. It's not a straightforward narrative. It's more of a meditation on grief and ageing and the state of the nation. It's kind of a diary except that it's also like a dream, and times and places morph into each other and the whole narrative slips and slides so you can't ever entirely figure out what's going on. I enjoyed it, but it was rather hard work at times. I'd have appreciated more of a handle on things.
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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.
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While I found this book beautifully written and a very quick read, it didn't really captivate me in any way. It's pretty much a diary from on the road and nothing much happens throughout it. While I have an interest in Patti Smith, I'd recommend this as one for diehard fans only as its quite taxing otherwise.
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What can be said about the writing of Patti Smith that hasn’t already been said? Her writing is immersive and beautiful, and I will always seek out her work whenever there’s something new. 

Written during the year 2016, the year that Patti turns 70, Tr*mp is elected and the titular Chinese Year of the Monkey, Patti spends her time travelling, dreaming and musing on the way that life passes. 

I’m grateful to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for the chance to read this preview copy, it was such a treat.
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A really really good read, as I would expect from Patti Smith. The book is an interesting mix- Part Travelogue, part rumination on the events and atmophere of the current times, part reflective introspection. Any one would of these elements would have made for an interesting enough read, Taken togther it makes for an intriguing journey, if a passage or two doesn't resonate then one that will is certain be along shortly. Highly recommended.
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