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Dévotion

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C'est une histoire d'obsession qui anime Patti Smith, d'obsession créatrice, que l'on retrouve sous différentes formes dans cet ouvrage très personnel. De passage à Paris, l'artiste observe tout et absorbe tout. À la manière d'un journal intime, elle retranscrit ses impressions qui viendront nourrir « Dévotion », la nouvelle qui compose le cœur du livre et lui donne son ti C'est une histoire d'obsession qui anime Patti Smith, d'obsession créatrice, que l'on retrouve sous différentes formes dans cet ouvrage très personnel. De passage à Paris, l'artiste observe tout et absorbe tout. À la manière d'un journal intime, elle retranscrit ses impressions qui viendront nourrir « Dévotion », la nouvelle qui compose le cœur du livre et lui donne son titre, conte poétique et glaçant qui revisite le Faust de Goethe au féminin. Patti Smith nous offre ici un aperçu émouvant de son processus d'écriture mais aussi une réflexion sur ce qui la pousse à écrire, encore et toujours.


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C'est une histoire d'obsession qui anime Patti Smith, d'obsession créatrice, que l'on retrouve sous différentes formes dans cet ouvrage très personnel. De passage à Paris, l'artiste observe tout et absorbe tout. À la manière d'un journal intime, elle retranscrit ses impressions qui viendront nourrir « Dévotion », la nouvelle qui compose le cœur du livre et lui donne son ti C'est une histoire d'obsession qui anime Patti Smith, d'obsession créatrice, que l'on retrouve sous différentes formes dans cet ouvrage très personnel. De passage à Paris, l'artiste observe tout et absorbe tout. À la manière d'un journal intime, elle retranscrit ses impressions qui viendront nourrir « Dévotion », la nouvelle qui compose le cœur du livre et lui donne son titre, conte poétique et glaçant qui revisite le Faust de Goethe au féminin. Patti Smith nous offre ici un aperçu émouvant de son processus d'écriture mais aussi une réflexion sur ce qui la pousse à écrire, encore et toujours.

30 review for Dévotion

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    An unconventional but inspiring little book. It’s part memoir, part fiction, part travel writing. I just love Patti Smith’s writing.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    Devotion by Patti Smith was the 2016 Windham-Campbell Lecture at Yale University. Smith, a singer, writer, and photographer, wrote M Train and Just Kids and several volumes of poetry. Her album Horses is widely viewed as one of the great rock albums of all time. Where does her inspiration come from? Smith writes every day, usually in a café in Manhattan. She’s in her seventies now, having survived a husband and a long time partner, Robert Mapplethorpe, and is still writing and making music. New Devotion by Patti Smith was the 2016 Windham-Campbell Lecture at Yale University. Smith, a singer, writer, and photographer, wrote M Train and Just Kids and several volumes of poetry. Her album Horses is widely viewed as one of the great rock albums of all time. Where does her inspiration come from? Smith writes every day, usually in a café in Manhattan. She’s in her seventies now, having survived a husband and a long time partner, Robert Mapplethorpe, and is still writing and making music. New York's own (former) downtown rocker, street poet, punk. And as she says of her self, once just a working-class kid, too. Of late, I and it seems many in the world have come to pay particular attention to Smith as writer. (Just Kids got our attention). In this short book on this subject she doesn’t disappoint, helping us see the way she draws on experience—and particularly her experience of art and literature—to develop her own writing. Smith, who first visited Paris in her twenties, returns there to talk about writing with some journalists, armed with some books for the trip, including a biography of Simone Weil, a novel by Patrick Modiano, and many memories of Paris, some of them informed by her own photography, some by a lifetime of reading. While in Paris, Smith takes the occasion to visit the graves or homes of artists she sees as touchstones for her life and work: Albert Camus, Simone Weil, Patrick Modiano. The book is a small book; I love small books. There are three sections in it: “How the Mind Works,” “Devotion,” and “A Dream is not a Dream.” Smith says books or songs or films are triggers (oh, that’s a term Richard Hugo uses, in The Triggering Town) for her creative activity, for writing. “The right book can serve as a docent of sorts, setting a tone or even altering the course of a journey.” In her hotel she watches a young girl skater on tv skating “as if nothing else exists.” She’s reading Simone Weil in a hotel blocks from where Baudelaire began writing Les Fleurs de Mal. She's reading Modiano, taking us obsessively through the Paris of his past. She’s aware of the ghosts of her favorite writers who have lived here: Baudelaire, Camus, Joyce, Modiano; they are everywhere. I type this in the car on my midwinter trip to New Orleans and a brief stay on the Gulf Coast, armed with my own docents, including this book, of course! And Camus’s The Fall. Several books of poetry, a graphic novel or five, including The Compleat Moonshadow. I’m listening from time to time as I drive to Since I Fell by Dennis Lehane, which is not (in any way that is obvious to me) affecting me deeply. We leave Chicago at 7 a.m. at zero degrees; at 4:30 as I write this as I cross the Yocona River, it is 44 degrees. We take I-Phone pictures of new state signs from the car, we repeat the letters of the Mississippi River as we cross it. What is the thing or phrase that will shift my consciousness in a useful direction? Or will it be a musical encounter at Maison in New Orleans? On a visit to a cemetery in search of Paul Valery, Smith sees a gravestone of a young girl with the word “Dévouement” etched on it: Devotion. In New Orleans I go to the St Louis #1 Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans, much of it in disrepair. All the tombs are above the ground. Also called The City of the Dead, it is featured in zombie films, and is the place for voodoo rituals. It is a place where angels are said to be so prevalent that you can sometimes hear the flapping of their wings. Tombs we see include the New Orleans Home for the Incurables; The Tomb of Marie Laveau, VooDoo Queen of New Orleans, and The Society for the Relief of Destitute Orphan Boys Tomb. Maybe to learn that reading can be inspiring to a writer is not that startlingly original, but I like how it works itself out in the central piece, “Devotion,” about an orphan for whom ice skating “is pure feeling” and who seems to have an affair with an older man. It’s not that great or even that compelling a story, one of lost innocence, but I like how it gives evidence to her theory; The figure skater, images from an Estonian film, Weil, Modiano, Camus, a visit to a French cemetery, they’re all here in her story. We see how Smith’s mind recycles impressions and ideas into art. "I was looking for something, and I found something else." Art as serendipity, as whim, as discovery, in a life lived also deliberately, consciously. Smith goes to the house of the daughter of Camus, where she looks through the manuscript Camus was working on, The First Man, when he died in a car accident. This short anecdote has magic in it. There’s an air of nostalgia and mortality in it, too. I make a note to reread this book, having just read Camus's The Fall. I like Smith's book. Not as much as Just Kids, but it is a sweet short (and little) essay, Smith talking to us. But maybe you just wanted me to cut to the chase and tell you Smith’s answer to the question: Why do we write? So-ree! Okay, here it is: “Because we cannot simply live.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    A worthwhile addition to the Patti Smith library. "Devotion" beautifully describes Patti Smith's attitude toward the creative life, as anyone who has read M Train or Just Kids can attest. This tiny volume is divided into three parts. The first, "How the Mind Works" is not analytical but illustrative. It starts, "Somehow, in search of something else, I stumbled upon..." A film about Estonians deported to Siberian collective farms in 1941. Images from the film. The difficulty of capturing images A worthwhile addition to the Patti Smith library. "Devotion" beautifully describes Patti Smith's attitude toward the creative life, as anyone who has read M Train or Just Kids can attest. This tiny volume is divided into three parts. The first, "How the Mind Works" is not analytical but illustrative. It starts, "Somehow, in search of something else, I stumbled upon..." A film about Estonians deported to Siberian collective farms in 1941. Images from the film. The difficulty of capturing images in writing. "this was the beginning of that something else, but I didn't know it then." The haunting image. Trying to work in a cafe. Reading Modiano's Paris Nocturne, and reaching for her pen. The interaction of the mind that observes and absorbs with ideas and creations, and then the springing to life of the creative impulse. Time and again, we hear that Patti Smith 'travels light'--which is interesting to me, in that yes, she packs in a minute, heads out to pay devotion to any number of cultural figures--in this section its Simone Weil, who merges with Modiano and that Estonian film. She travels light physically, but internally, she travels crammed to the mental rafters with raptures and associations, obsessions and curiosities. WE go to Paris and drink coffee at the Cafe de Flore, pay our respects to Picasso and Apollinaire, to"the Deux Magots of the existentialists. The Hotel des Etrangers, where Rimbaud and Verlaine presided over the Circle Zutique..." and now Rimbaud becomes part of the matrix. Paris holds a welter of her associations, to French film, to French and expat literature, to younger versions of herself. She comes across a skater on French television, a young Russian who melds with the figure of Simone Weil, and so on. One association leads to another. This is the inner life of art, she never has to say. I loved the way she described Paris as a book: "Paris is a city one can read without a map...." and it inspires me to think of other cities I've known, other books of places. The way the taking in of stimuli bonds to other stimuli, to memory, to bits of knowledge, heated in the crucible of obsession, leads to inspiration--to the action of picking up a pen. Reading Patti Smith always makes me want to write. She plays the instrument of her creative self at a certain vibration that always vibrates my own. The second, largest, part of the book is a long story about a skater, a young skater like a young Simone Weil, a pure artist. I was surprised how distant the story was, very chilly and abstract--it reminded me of the French writer Pierre Jean Jouve, one of the predecessors of the French New Wave. I was disappointed, wanted more of the autobiographical material, or at least less of an abstract, cool-toned story--though I liked it better when the characters moved on to North Africa, picking up the Rimbaud theme. But still, there was something else, I couldn't put my finger on it until I read an interview with Smith by critic Scott Timberg (Culture Crash) in the LA Review of Books. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/p... She said something that brought the story into perfect view, describing her love of French literature: "There’s just something about his language. There’s something about French in translation that I just relate to. Maybe it’s the starkness. It’s both complex and simple at the same time." In the story called "Devotion," Smith was writing her version of that cool, stark French existentialist New Wave literature. Of course. The story itself is an act of devotion. The third part of the book is an extremely short section, "A Dream is Not A Dream"--which echoed for me the music of her line from the song In My Blakean Year: "One road is paved in gold One road is just a road." I like the way she describes "why I write"--"to set oneself apart, cocooned, react in solitude, despite the wants of others." Her respect for the struggle: "We must write, engaging in a myriad of struggles... We must write, but not without consisted effort and a measure of sacrifice: to channel the future, to revisit childhood, and to rein in the follies and horrors of the imagination for a pulsating race of readers." She is invited to Camus' home, stays in his room, and his granddaughter lets her hold his last manuscript: "... primed to embrace this precious time, wanting for nothing. But slowly I discerned a familiar shift in my concentration. That compulsion that prohibits me from completely surrendering to a work of art, drawing me from the halls of a favorite museum to my own drawing table... That is the decisive power of a singular work: a call to action.... The words before me were elegant, blistering. My hands vibrated. Infused with confidence, I had the urge to bolt, mount the stairs, close the heavy door that had been his, sit before my own stack of foolscap and begin at my own beginning. An act of guiltless sacrilege." The devotion is not ultimately to the work, but to the divine fire.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    As a reading experience this was unsatisfactory. A brief book about writing and the writer's life, Devotion begins with a short section wherein Patti Smith travels to Paris to spend a week doing business with her French publisher. Her time there is fairly quiet, a lot of walks and relaxed meals in cafes. On a train trip she is suddenly inspired to write and feverishly turns out a short story in her notebook; she mentions that it contains several elements inspired by the preceding few days: a round piece As a reading experience this was unsatisfactory. A brief book about writing and the writer's life, Devotion begins with a short section wherein Patti Smith travels to Paris to spend a week doing business with her French publisher. Her time there is fairly quiet, a lot of walks and relaxed meals in cafes. On a train trip she is suddenly inspired to write and feverishly turns out a short story in her notebook; she mentions that it contains several elements inspired by the preceding few days: a round piece of ham in a restaurant becomes a round pond in the story; a figure skater she sees on TV becomes her main character; a bit of a film she saw provides some of the imagery. The entire short story then appears as the book's middle and longest section. This is a cool idea in theory, a glimpse of the writerly process, but sadly the story itself was odd and unenjoyable, with remote characters and a fablelike quality that lacked immediacy. It felt endless. The last section of the book details Patti Smith's trip to Albert Camus's house. Camus's daughter invites her there, and Smith gets to stay in Camus's room, have lunch with Camus's daughter and spend time with Camus's granddaughter, take in the same views Camus took in, and even look at Camus's last manuscript, handwritten and complete with his crossouts and insertions. The point of this section is that looking at Camus's manuscript inspires Smith to do some more writing of her own, but to me it honestly just felt like she was bragging about her amazing experience at Camus's house; the writing element was peripheral. This Camus section unfortunately cast the Paris section of the book in a new light for me; Devotion now felt like a mediocre short story bookended by two vignettes about how awesome Patti Smith's life is. The whole thing ends with photographic reproductions of the pages she wrote on the train. I guess these were meant to inspire the reader in the way Camus's pages inspired Smith, but they were pretty much illegible. So that's it. It wasn't terrible or anything, but there is nothing about it that would make me recommend it to anyone. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Constance

    Devotion is delivered to the reader in a bouquet of immortelle with a sword hidden in the middle. I've said it before and will continue to reiterate, Ms Smith's books are to be read slowly, methodically or you will miss the magic. I was ecstatic when Devotion finally arrived. I skipped through my home holding it dear to my heart. Later I read a few pages, and slept with it beside me. The connection of her work is that potent; having the book close while you sleep is sa Devotion is delivered to the reader in a bouquet of immortelle with a sword hidden in the middle. I've said it before and will continue to reiterate, Ms Smith's books are to be read slowly, methodically or you will miss the magic. I was ecstatic when Devotion finally arrived. I skipped through my home holding it dear to my heart. Later I read a few pages, and slept with it beside me. The connection of her work is that potent; having the book close while you sleep is safety. "Why do we write? Because we cannot simply live." Patti Smith

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    Patti Smith as the story teller. Listened to the Audible edition read by Smith. Part current life of her travels separated by a story worthy of a traveling bard. More reminiscent of her earlier work than her last two books.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    While at the Harvard Book Store last week, I decided to console myself with the fact I couldn't make yet another trip in two weeks' time back to the city to see Patti Smith live, by purchasing her new book. I adore her, but in this case, I should have purchased a remainder hard cover copy of my beloved "M Train" instead of her newest. I was looking for this to be "M Train 2.0," but instead got an odd little 100-page book divided in three parts. Part I is her recounting a trip to France; Part II While at the Harvard Book Store last week, I decided to console myself with the fact I couldn't make yet another trip in two weeks' time back to the city to see Patti Smith live, by purchasing her new book. I adore her, but in this case, I should have purchased a remainder hard cover copy of my beloved "M Train" instead of her newest. I was looking for this to be "M Train 2.0," but instead got an odd little 100-page book divided in three parts. Part I is her recounting a trip to France; Part II is a short story about a young Eastern European ice skater, which, while the writing was beautiful poetry, was kind of icky; and Part III is titled "Why I Write," but a visit to Camus home. I want to hear about the process, sitting in New York cafes drinking coffee from early morning, hands covered in ink because she writes things by hand. No, that was "M Train" (are you getting that I loved that book?). Even though I am lukewarm on this book, I still sat with pen in hand, underlying sentences that sometimes would take my breath away. "Closing my eyes, I envision the tip of a glacier and slide into an intimate hot spring surrounded by calls of impenetrable ice." "Why do we write? A chorus erupts. "Because we cannot simply live." And found a kindred spirit. "The taxi arrives too quickly as I realize I haven't yet chosen what books to take. The prospects of boarding a plan without a book produces a wave of panic. The right book can serve as a docent of sorts, setting a tone or even altering the course of a journey."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    Why is one compelled to write? To set oneself apart, cocooned, rapt in solitude, despite the wants of others. Virginia Woolf had her room. Proust his shuttered windows. Marguerite Duras her muted house. Dylan Thomas his modest shed. All seeking an emptiness to imbue with words. The words that will penetrate virgin territory, crack unclaimed combinations, articulate the infinite. [...] There are stacks of notebooks that speak of years of aborted efforts, deflated euphoria, a relentless pacing of Why is one compelled to write? To set oneself apart, cocooned, rapt in solitude, despite the wants of others. Virginia Woolf had her room. Proust his shuttered windows. Marguerite Duras her muted house. Dylan Thomas his modest shed. All seeking an emptiness to imbue with words. The words that will penetrate virgin territory, crack unclaimed combinations, articulate the infinite. [...] There are stacks of notebooks that speak of years of aborted efforts, deflated euphoria, a relentless pacing of the boards. We must write, engaging in a myriad of struggles, as if breaking in a willful foal. We must write, but not without consistent effort and a measure of sacrifice: to channel the future, to revisit childhood, and to rein in the follies and horrors of the imagination for the pulsating race of readers.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Debashis

    Haunting..beautiful..

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lee Foust

    This is a remarkable little book in its own way. It's a longish short story called "Devotion" bracketed by opening and closing sections discussing the story's genesis and then some reflections on the act of creative writing, in line with the book's genesis as part of the Why I Write-themed Windham-Campbell lectures at Yale. It's the opening and closing sections that moved me the most, as a fellow writer and Patti Smith fan--I've even met her on a couple of occasions. The story was less dramatical This is a remarkable little book in its own way. It's a longish short story called "Devotion" bracketed by opening and closing sections discussing the story's genesis and then some reflections on the act of creative writing, in line with the book's genesis as part of the Why I Write-themed Windham-Campbell lectures at Yale. It's the opening and closing sections that moved me the most, as a fellow writer and Patti Smith fan--I've even met her on a couple of occasions. The story was less dramatically pleasing than the frame commentary, oddly, but it is also helped a bit by the exposition and reflections surrounding it. It's funny how we read so differently than we write--how modernism's techniques have taught us to hide our concepts in actions and symbols that only make our ideas more cloudy to readers. But that, I suppose, is in-line with Longinus's definition of the sublime: Ars celare artem est. Still, it makes me feel naive as a reader when I don't see the obvious idea in the narrative because I'm distracted by its illusion of reality. (And, oy vey, Patti, enough with the Rimbaud already!) The final reflections on writing on the last two pages are well worth the thirteen pounds Sterling I paid for this at London's Rough Trade East and the time I spent reading it at the 10 Bells pub while hiding out from the rain--a pub once frequented by ladies of the evening, at least two of whom were dismembered by Jack the Ripper's carving knife. (Forgive me, it was my first trip to London and my head is still abuzz with the city's sights, sounds, and history.) I loved Patti's declaration that a work of art/literature is a "call to action." I'm pretty sure she means a call to answer the work with another work, to write oneself, but I think it's also a very wise generality as I do think art should have an inspirational effect--whether it be revolutionary, meditative, social, conceptual, or, as Patti intends, inspirational--that is, tending toward further artistic work. her sentiment reminded me of Susan Sontag's famous adage that she didn't write for an audience but rather "Because there is literature." I wonder if male authors are so generous to those authors who have inspired them to write. Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence points out how ungenerous--even hostile--literary homage can sometimes be. Patti calls this call to action's result "A guiltless sacrilege." Besides being a beautifully phrased phrase, her humility before other great works of literature is quite winning. Again I wondered if male authors don't feel it's more of a right to write than a sacrilege, that they are called in order to burn through the history of literature with their own words. Dunno, I don't often read writers on writing, and my reading is tending quite heavily these days to female authors, but I will keep an eye on this attitude in the future.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Offbalance

    While I often say that my love of Patti Smith's writing is massive and boundless, I may now have to qualify that to say that my love of Patti Smith's nonfiction is boundless. I could stand on street corners and harangue complete strangers into reading her absolutely perfect memoir Just Kids. It's a book so beautiful that it made me cry on the subway before 8am on a weekday. (Usually if I tear up under those circumstances, it has to do with a foul odor, or the knowledge that the week is far from While I often say that my love of Patti Smith's writing is massive and boundless, I may now have to qualify that to say that my love of Patti Smith's nonfiction is boundless. I could stand on street corners and harangue complete strangers into reading her absolutely perfect memoir Just Kids. It's a book so beautiful that it made me cry on the subway before 8am on a weekday. (Usually if I tear up under those circumstances, it has to do with a foul odor, or the knowledge that the week is far from over). Her memoir M Train (or as I call it, selections from what I wish had been Patti's Livejournal) was a complete delight, and surprised me in that I usually don't get that caught up in the minutiae of someone's everyday life so much; still, I was sad after we'd had our last cup of coffee together during those pages. So sad, that I'd tracked down Woolgathering, but the poetry kind of left me cold. No matter, I'd sort of lost my taste for the stuff after college, so I figured it was just me. I was excited when Devotion was announced, and when it was explained to be a treatise about her writing and process (although she does delve into that in M Train a bit). I was absolutely over the moon when a dear friend invited me to hear Patti speak at a local reading that was handing out free copies of the new book, too. What a day! Patti read from the memoir section of Devotion (which involved a trip to France and all the meat, potatoes and coffee that made M Train so lovable) and spoke about how the rest of the slender volume was written in haste, against a deadline, as she was something at a loss as to how to describe the devotion of the process of writing in such a way. She turned to fiction to do so. She told us all about what she had been reading and watching and doing at the time, sang a few songs, and gave us a lovely evening. I could not WAIT to open this book. The opening and closing sections were fantastic. I loved her agony over picking the right books to take on a trip (I feel her so much there) and about visiting "holy" sites of authors that meant something to her. Those sections are what earned this book three stars instead of two. It was when we delved into her fiction that the wheels fell off. I'm not really sure what an Estonian ice skater having an affair with an older guy that she may or may not be happy about having has to do with devotion to craft, but I do see a lot of the author's more "personal" likes and dislikes in there. Boy, do I ever. I'm still hoping for another memoir of her time in Michigan raising a family, which I'm not sure will ever come, as I get the feeling she is private about some parts in her life. But if she ever decides to release another memoir about anything, or essays about anything, I will be first in line to buy it. Not sure I can say the same about her fiction.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Freesiab (Bookish Review)

    It was so beautiful, delicate, passionate and lovely. It's more of a novella, so it's quite easy to finish in a day. Does she ever write a book that's not perfect? Maybe she'd adopt me?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    This was a lovely little book - part short story, part non-fiction/memoir. I've never read fictional prose from Smith before, but I quite enjoyed the story Devotion in this, even if it was quite strange. Her writing has a certain etherial quality that I can just get lost in. But my favourite part of this has to be her musings on writing and her own writing practice, in the cafes of Paris and New York City. The addition of her own personal photographs (including that of her notebook) really complemented This was a lovely little book - part short story, part non-fiction/memoir. I've never read fictional prose from Smith before, but I quite enjoyed the story Devotion in this, even if it was quite strange. Her writing has a certain etherial quality that I can just get lost in. But my favourite part of this has to be her musings on writing and her own writing practice, in the cafes of Paris and New York City. The addition of her own personal photographs (including that of her notebook) really complemented the text. Definitely one to pick up if you're a lover of Patti Smith the writer.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sian Lile-Pastore

    It IS a bit slight... But still lovely. It's a three parter - starts non-fiction about travelling to France, which I really enjoyed, then there's a short story about an ice skater which was just ok for me, and then a short non-fiction piece at the end about going to Camus' house. Some lovely parts in the non-fiction - coffee, books, bowls of berries etc etc and the short story wasn't awful by any means, but wasn't really expecting it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Koppelkam

    I love you Patti. As always, Patti's voice is unmistakable. Her love for black coffee, for visiting the graves of her muses, for simplicity and for obsession (devotion?): it's all here. As Smith says herself in the third section of this slim text ("A Dream is Not a Dream") it is a rare thing to be able to track all of the influences, images, and fascinations that make up a piece of art. But Smith does it here. In the first section, "How the Mind Works", we see the pieces coming together, and the I love you Patti. As always, Patti's voice is unmistakable. Her love for black coffee, for visiting the graves of her muses, for simplicity and for obsession (devotion?): it's all here. As Smith says herself in the third section of this slim text ("A Dream is Not a Dream") it is a rare thing to be able to track all of the influences, images, and fascinations that make up a piece of art. But Smith does it here. In the first section, "How the Mind Works", we see the pieces coming together, and then the mad scramble to get it all on the page (she describes having to slow her breath). On its own, the short story "Devotion" is beautiful and grotesque and plants images in your mind that won't go away. I love the way Smith portrays the genius of the physicality of a skater, and the sole devotion of the pursuit of art (in whatever form it comes). But it is the peek into the process of a story coming together that makes this book really special.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    "These streets are a poem waiting to be hatched—suddenly it’s Easter; eggs everywhere.” Follow Patti Smith to the café, to Paris, on the train, into her dreams. You’ll emerge a different person: an artist, aware of detail, discriminating of style. Since this is part of the “Why I Write Series,” I assumed she would tell us about why she writes. But, duh. No. She shows us. She takes us on a journey during which she conceives of a story, she gives us the story, and then reflects on the quest "These streets are a poem waiting to be hatched—suddenly it’s Easter; eggs everywhere.” Follow Patti Smith to the café, to Paris, on the train, into her dreams. You’ll emerge a different person: an artist, aware of detail, discriminating of style. Since this is part of the “Why I Write Series,” I assumed she would tell us about why she writes. But, duh. No. She shows us. She takes us on a journey during which she conceives of a story, she gives us the story, and then reflects on the question. Thus her answer unfolds, and comes to life before our eyes. I’ve long admired her persona, but this is my first experience of her prose. It is as unique as I expected.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beth Bonini

    “Most often the alchemy that produces a poem or a work of fiction is hidden within the work itself, if not embedded in the coiling ridges of the mind. But in this case I could track a plethora of enticements, a forest of firs, Simone Weil’s haircut, white bootlace, a pouch of screws, Camus’s existential gun.” More often than not, I reread the beginning of a book as soon as I finish it. With this book, I felt that this order of reading, or rather re-reading, was essential. I would recommend it “Most often the alchemy that produces a poem or a work of fiction is hidden within the work itself, if not embedded in the coiling ridges of the mind. But in this case I could track a plethora of enticements, a forest of firs, Simone Weil’s haircut, white bootlace, a pouch of screws, Camus’s existential gun.” More often than not, I reread the beginning of a book as soon as I finish it. With this book, I felt that this order of reading, or rather re-reading, was essential. I would recommend it to you. In this Smith-styled dissection of the creative process, the author/musician/photographer reconstructs myriad ‘random’ details glimpsed or experienced while she is on a working/sentimental journey in Paris and the French countryside. She then presents the short story which results from the creative fermentation of a variety of visual and intellectual inspiration. “Fate has a hand but is not the hand,” says Smith. An altered flight leads to the choosing of a Simone Weil monograph; a visit to a cemetery (in search of Paul Valery’s headstone) leads to the title of the short story; a random viewing of an ice skating championship provides inspiration for a young female protagonist. These are just a few examples provided by Smith, but only after I read the short story did I entirely grasp what she was trying to show ‘us’ (the readers, the writers, the fellow creators). At first, I found it difficult to switch from Smith’s voice to the fictional voice of the story; but then the elegant and somehow hypnotic quality of her writing really grabbed me. Still, it’s the memoirist’s observations that I will really remember. Below, are a few favourite lines - the kind I underline and want to hold on to. ”The prospect of boarding a plane without a book produces a wave of panic. The right book can serve as a docent of sorts, setting a tone or even altering the course of a journey. I desperately scan the room as if searching for a lifeline in a deep marsh.” ”What is the dream? To write something fine, that would be better than I am, and that would justify my trials and indiscretions. To offer proof, through a scramble of words, that God exists. Why do we write? A chorus erupts. Because we cannot simply live.”

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zizeloni

    This book has three parts. It starts with another episode of "catching up with Patti": she is in Paris, reading, remembering, getting inspiration. I loved M train, but I have to admit that starting this book I wondered "is what I am doing now the same as watching a literature reality show?" However the second part of the book was fiction: a story about a young ice skater and a man watching her. Although it started with many descriptions, I ended up loving this story and imagining a movie ve This book has three parts. It starts with another episode of "catching up with Patti": she is in Paris, reading, remembering, getting inspiration. I loved M train, but I have to admit that starting this book I wondered "is what I am doing now the same as watching a literature reality show?" However the second part of the book was fiction: a story about a young ice skater and a man watching her. Although it started with many descriptions, I ended up loving this story and imagining a movie version of it (something artistic, for a film festival). The third part was small, some pages about Patti's visit to Camus' house. I didn't care for it that much, but I am not a very sensitive person in many aspects. In the end, I am happy I read this book, although there were moments that I had doubts. But in the end, Patti as usual didn't disappoint me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Patti Smith is a gift.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A 95 page reminder that Patti Smith is an amazing artist and down right cool person.

  21. 5 out of 5

    emma

    Liked the autobiographical parts, absolutely loathed thr short story/novella in the middle. I never want to read a book about a "16-year old girl" having an affair with a "man in his late thirties". Just. NO.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Smith's opening essay gives a snapshot of the weeks in her life leading up to the composition of the title story. I found the essay fascinating; beautifully written and transporting. She allowed me to feel like I was her journey's companion, sharing her coffee, experiencing the sights, sounds and feel of the places through which she was travelling (even when she was staying somewhere, absorbing its atmosphere, it felt like Patti was looking to the next place, and these memories and sensations were to t Smith's opening essay gives a snapshot of the weeks in her life leading up to the composition of the title story. I found the essay fascinating; beautifully written and transporting. She allowed me to feel like I was her journey's companion, sharing her coffee, experiencing the sights, sounds and feel of the places through which she was travelling (even when she was staying somewhere, absorbing its atmosphere, it felt like Patti was looking to the next place, and these memories and sensations were to take home with her). The story that emerged from her travels I found less engaging. Not without interest, at times variously moving, shocking, confusing and frustrating. I feel a degree of sadness and pity towards her main character, Eugenia, but I'm not sure if that is Smith's intention - I'm sure Eugenia would want neither emotion from me. I didn't quite connect with Eugenia, though, which makes her motivations obscure for me. This, I think, because (view spoiler)[I feel her relationship with Alexander to be an emotionally and sexually abusive one in which the fifteen/sixteen year old Eugenia is groomed by the middle-aged man, though this is not explicitely stated. Yet, perhaps, this unspoken aspect is played out in the violence in which the relationship is ended. The ambiguity of the narrative in this respect is something I struggle to hold (hide spoiler)] . The end of the short story is beautifully written in a clear prose that projected itself onto the screen of my imagination like a film. I have a sharply defined picture of Eugenia skating on the ice of her beloved, sacred pond as she whirls and pirouettes. That the conclusion of Eugenia's story is strongly hinted but, again, not stated, is fitting and this final scene lifted the work up a level for me. The final essay continues the journey Smith stated in the opening chapter, but she is grounded here, washed up on the shores of Albert Camus' house. It's a nice "thank you" letter to his daughter for letting Smith stay with her and examine some of her literary hero's manuscripts, but I'm not sure I need to read it. (There's more to it than that, to be fair, but this is the impression with which I was left.) I love Patti Smith's music so much that I really want to give this book five stars, but I feel myself hesitating at giving it four. If I could, I'd give three-and-a-half, but as that's not possible on GR, I (feeling traitorous) reluctently rate it at three stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/de... ...Alain glances from his book and looks out the window. Time contracts. We are suddenly approaching Paris. Aurélien is sleeping. It occurs to me that the young look beautiful as they sleep and the old, such as myself, look dead… Patti Smith is always brutally honest when she needs to be. I respect her and admire her very much. Do I think she is a great writer? No, I do not. But she is a great artist given her entire body of work in music, poetry, collage, politics, painting, memoir, sculpture/>...Alain https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/de... ...Alain glances from his book and looks out the window. Time contracts. We are suddenly approaching Paris. Aurélien is sleeping. It occurs to me that the young look beautiful as they sleep and the old, such as myself, look dead… Patti Smith is always brutally honest when she needs to be. I respect her and admire her very much. Do I think she is a great writer? No, I do not. But she is a great artist given her entire body of work in music, poetry, collage, politics, painting, memoir, sculpture, and fiction. ...sit before my own stack of foolscap… Despite a kernel of greatness here and there, Patti Smith might just as well left this manuscript unpublished and piled upon her stack of foolscap. Not her strongest work, not even close. But she always speaks out of necessity. ...Why do we write? A chorus erupts. Because we cannot simply live...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Annso

    The book consists of four parts: First, Patti Smith talks about the inspiration for her short story, then there is the actual short story, then she describes a visit to the Camus family home and finally, there are facsimiles of her manuscripts. I throughly enjoyed the parts where Smith talks in her "own" voice, thus, the first and the third parts (and the manuscripts were also cool to look at!). The short story in itself had me less captivated. I actually put the book down after beginning to rea The book consists of four parts: First, Patti Smith talks about the inspiration for her short story, then there is the actual short story, then she describes a visit to the Camus family home and finally, there are facsimiles of her manuscripts. I throughly enjoyed the parts where Smith talks in her "own" voice, thus, the first and the third parts (and the manuscripts were also cool to look at!). The short story in itself had me less captivated. I actually put the book down after beginning to read the short story since I could trace her inspiration so well and somehow, that made the actual story considerably less interesting to me and in a way, took the magic. When I picked the book up again, I was more captivated by it, but to me, Smith describing how she writes and how she moves through cities and imagines the poets and artists who have meandered on the same paths - those parts are why I love reading Patti Smith's writing.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lulufrances

    Patti Smith is one of my favourite humans that I don't know. I wish I would, though, I feel like I could curl up for hours and listen to her speak on all sorts of topics, mainly art and literature - which is why I am so fond of her writing that seems like personal journal entries. This tiny book had two of those sections and one longer tale in the middle which I thought was easy and fun to read (she does know her craft, sentences like hot buttered toast), but left me colder than her in Patti Smith is one of my favourite humans that I don't know. I wish I would, though, I feel like I could curl up for hours and listen to her speak on all sorts of topics, mainly art and literature - which is why I am so fond of her writing that seems like personal journal entries. This tiny book had two of those sections and one longer tale in the middle which I thought was easy and fun to read (she does know her craft, sentences like hot buttered toast), but left me colder than her intimate recounts. Still a good thing to have read, single regrets and in fact I encourage you all to invest yourself in her world and writing. She rocks.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Dickson

    Patti Smith has created another sublime, immersive fever dream around the nature of creation, the vagaries of memory and age, and the ghosts that inhabit our lives, our homes and our minds. Smith’s inspired push to comprehend her need to write is a sweetly solemn paean to the artist in us all. I loved this book, especially while I was reading it, for the intelligence it offered but also for the many small, intricately detailed worlds it shared with me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    AfroLit

    This was absolute literary beauty. Completely entranced you won't want to be free.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    A beautiful, yet slight book, written by one of my favorite artist on the planet. I should have read this in an hour, but hummingbirds & bees interrupted my reading on my porch, & Turner Classic Movies took over my night. Completely different than "Just Kids" & "M Train" but no less beautiful.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I am ambivalent about how much I like this. It does take itself awfully seriously. But then I do find that is a sensible thing to do. But I guess it’s just not entirely to my taste.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alanna Why

    Read this in an hour in a car ride on vacation. Didn't really care for the introductory essay, but I really liked the short story Devotion as well as the outro essay about visiting Camus' house. A good read if you already enjoy Patti Smith's writing!

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