This autobiography is another example of the unanticipated and lovely ways in which books can arrive in your life. My friend, who lives in New York, sent me this book – which her boyfriend had bought for her as a surprise – unexpectedly, arriving in the post with its slightly yellower than a Jiffy, American envelope and green customs sticker. She, like me, wasn’t all that familiar with Patti Smith’s work, but got very quickly engrossed in her life story, thinking of me on finishing it and sending it on.
There are obvious parallels between Patti and my friend’s lives; both living, creating, struggling in Manhattan and Brooklyn (both have dark hair and fringes too), but not so much for me (although I do have a fringe). However, as with all good books, Patti’s stylish storytelling skills and the universal themes of love and art transcend all that.
I’ve been trying to think, since finishing the book, of a description for it, as it doesn’t feel entirely, or solely, like an autobiography The only, and best description I could think of is that it is a fairy tale; a late 1960s/early 1970s fairytale. Just about every cultural icon from the late 20th century features. Plucking a few names out of the air: Andy Warhol, Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Johnny Winter, Allen Ginsberg and Salvador Dali all wander through the pages of the book, giving it a fantastical, mythical feel, even as you know you are reading about someone’s actual life. In addition, central to any fairy tale (and this one is no different), is a love story, of the eternal kind. There is too, eventually, a savior. It is a beautiful story and – almost as if the book itself knew all along – I know who I’m going to pass it to next.