Year of the Monkey

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Fun year in the life of Patti Smith.
Lots of australian details as she wants to go to uluru.
Just Kids will still be her best.
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More abstract and with a markedly less iconoclast feeling to it than Just Kids, it is a joy to read Patti for her lyrical prose.
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YEAR OF THE MONKEY 
Patti Smith
(Bloomsbury) www.bloomsbury.com
ISBN 978-1526614759. Hardcover. 192 pages

Within a few hundred words of opening her third memoir, the ever-mercurial Patti is communing with a talking sign at The Dream Motel just outside San Francisco, a bit like her beloved Alice conversing with the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Wonderland. Likewise, this moving and compelling, yet enigmatic, book seems to float just on the very edge of rational reach. Like a dream of life, it has rather more in common with her poetry and her songwriting than it does with her relatively straightforward first memoir, the justly acclaimed Just Kids. As it opens, her longtime pal, rock writer, songwriter and producer Sandy Pearlman, hovers between life and death after falling into a coma on his way to their traditional hook-up at her New Years Eve show at San Francisco’s Fillmore and in the course of her seventieth year she visits another dying friend, the playwright Sam Shepard. 2016, the Chinese Year Of The Monkey, is also the year Donald Trump was elected. Yet amidst all this death and disaster, it’s Smith’s profound humanity that shines. ‘Here’s what I know,’ she says. ‘Sam is dead. My brother is dead. My mother is dead. My father is dead. My husband is dead. Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen.’
Kevin Bourke
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I absolutely loved Just Kids and M Train so was thrilled to have another Patti Smith book to dive into. The writing is so, so good and unusual. Can't get enough.
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This feels more dreamlike than Patti Smith's previous books. A step further inside her mind, snatches of a stream of consciousness, this is one that appeals to Smith fans while trying something a little different in style. Highly recommend for fans.
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Patti Smith is a great writer and a poet as well as a musician. Her books capture her restless and slightly Zen spirit precisely. This one follow on from M-Train and takes her along the west coast of America, dealing with the sudden illness of a friend. There are odd signs and portents as she navigates her way across the country. It's like reading her diary - interspersed with her own photos - listening to your most interesting and creative friend.
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I loved Just kids  and M Train , Therefore, I was really excited when I saw that Patti Smith had another book available. The first two books were inspirational to me.  They showed me the creative life, inspiring me to be more imaginative in my life and work.   This book is very different to the other books.  The first two books have a conventional structure. They follow a life journey.  However, while this is still a memoir, this is less linear.  It takes the form of a stream of consciousness narrative, combining real life with dreamscape.  I liked this book and found it intellectually intriguing.  However, it did not have the same emotional punch of the first two books.
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Was it all real or was it all a dream?  I still don't know.  Sadly I'm not sure I care even though I really wanted to.  Not for me, I'm afraid.
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I’m still not sure how much was real and how much was a dream. Her mastery of prose is stunning, her observations are enlightening and her nomadic nature is inspiring. 
This is the first book I’ve read by Patti Smith, but it definitely won’t be the last.
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A dreamy, meditative stream-of-consciousness memoir. 

I haven't read any of Smith's previous work and I found this simultaneously beautiful and baffling. 

Following her through a tumultuous Year of the Monkey when America seems to be collapsing and Smith is facing mortality and the slow fading of people from her life. The book drifts from dreams to reality to dreamy versions of reality and back again as Smith traverses America, mourns for her friends and country, reminisces and makes new art and goes about the everyday tasks of living. 

I liked the dream-like nature of the narrative, right up until I didn't. I enjoyed parts of this book and it reads very quickly, but I also found it easy to skim and found myself skittering around when reading it. It didn't suck me in, I couldn't really connect with it.

An interesting experience of a book and a good insight into this period of Smith's life and her perspective on the world as she moves through it.
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This is a beautiful meditation by Patti on the year she turned 70 (2015 into 2016).  It an evocation of her friendships particularly with Sandy Pearlman and Sam Shepard written in a beautiful dreamlike quality and interspersed with her own photography.   A little treasure of a book.

Thanks to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for a review copy.
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“In the end, he was saying, everything is fodder for a story, which means, I guess, that we’re all fodder. I was sitting on a straight-back wooden chair. He was standing looking down at me just as always. Papa was a Rolling Stone was playing on the radio, which was brown tweed, sort of forties-looking. And I thought, as he reached down to brush the hair from my eyes, the trouble with dreaming is that we eventually wake up.”

This is the kind of book that makes me think of people and their stories. Those you pass in a crowd or fleetingly make eye contact with in a crowded cafe. So many whose inner lives and thoughts are very much present, yet very much hidden from you. You might unknowingly share space and a moment in time with someone and they could process it in a completely different way. You never really know what another person might be thinking or feeling or going through. You could be seated across from Patti Smith somewhere and without knowing it, she might have documented that moment in a Polaroid, or preserved it in her notebook. There is someone whose interior is filled with thoughtful contemplations voiced in dreamy, eloquent prose.
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In Year Of The Monkey, it’s 2016 and she takes us through a year in her life as she turns 70, wandering the country, ruminating on mortality in the face of losing the ones dear to her. All the while, the world itself seemed to be in a shambles, while the ascension of a certain yellow-haired bully disrupts things closer to home (“What will happen to us, I wondered, closing the book. Us being America, us being humanity in general.”) But she is still hopeful amidst the introspection: “Yet still I keep thinking that something wonderful is about to happen. Maybe tomorrow. A tomorrow following a whole succession of tomorrows.”.

In a blend of dreamscape and reality so seamless that it’s not always apparent which bits are imaginary until you stumble right upon a conversation with a talking motel sign, her hypnotic writing keeps you steady. In a time when “a lot of rough things happened” and the future is still an unknown, she writes as a way to stay connected, to ground things in a moment that is already leaving.
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This book reads like poetry in that there is no true story in it. More a collection of feelings and experiences of the writer traveling around America. A meditation on growing older and losing friends but also being truly free of expectation. A very interesting read that washes over the reader very gently.
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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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