Year of the Monkey

This book is a dream steeped in real life. “Year of the Monkey” by Patti Smith. Yes, that Patti Smith. I was surprised to see her name on my library reader app. I didn’t know she was such a prolific author. I was also surprised she is still alive and still touring at 70 years old. This is her latest book and I plan on reading more. She writes in an easy to read, effortless style. I recognized her name but I didn’t know much about this musical icon. I did some YouTube’ing and discovered I like her writing more than her music. I prefer a different type of punk rock.

The book starts with her staying in what she calls the “Dream Motel.” It is actually named the “Dream Inn” and you would think she had dreamed it up if she didn’t have a Polaroid picture of the sign to prove it. The whole book is punctuated by Polaroid pictures to prove her points. I liked it because I remember those cameras from my childhood, where you just snapped and waited for the film to “instantly” develop before your eyes. She describes a collection that outdid my mom’s and that is no mean feat.

It takes place in the Chinese year of the monkey, starting in Santa Cruz, CA and jumps across the country and other parts of the world. She spends a lot of time in NYC where she still goes to seedy cafes and drinks coffee, talks about books and writes in her journal. From what I gather her life hasn’t changed much in the 50 years since she became famous. And why not? Her life is pretty good. Sometimes it is hard to tell when she is dreaming but when she is with her friends whom she is outliving you know it is real.

She seems to live in the past but she doesn’t have much future left. She surrounds herself with old friends, books, paintings and memories. I thought she would have partied more but she didn’t really. That is probably how she found time to read and write all those books. She ties in passages from the classics and references to old plays. I am always jealous when people can do that. I am awful with names and dates and History class was the only subject I struggled with in school.

It is a memoir that mixes her real friends with her dream friends and sometimes I didn’t know which was which. The story is easy and fun to follow. She has a poetry in her prose which I liked. It would be a good beach read at 166 pages and I am interested in reading at least a couple more of the many books she had written. She has an interesting and storied life and has many famous friends to tell about. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read. Not just fans of her music.

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