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A Book of Days


A Book of Days

I must disclose right off the bat that I love Patti Smith. She has entered what some refer to as a “crone” era, when wise women of a certain age and much experience share their hard-earned wisdom with the world.

Patti has been a sage --- screaming words of truth about love and war, poetry and art, relationships and motherhood --- since she first appeared to us as a punk singer of non-specific gender who just wanted to make sure that we heard her words. Her precious words. (If you have never read JUST KIDS or M TRAIN, please do so, or at least listen to Horses or Easter, the LPs that put her on the American musical map.) When Bob Dylan could not pick up his Nobel Prize for Literature in person, Patti was dispatched by the man himself to accept it for him. Her beautiful, lyrical speech about him and his work is an art piece in itself.

"This is a volume that will become a touchstone for everyone who, in this twisted time, still has a taste for adventure, learning and the artist’s way."

But Patti also has an eye. An eye for photos that evoke moods and moments in her own inimitable fashion. Her relationship with the masterful, if controversial, Robert Mapplethorpe introduced her to photography in a way that has shaped her art intensely. With the advent of Instagram, Patti’s morning ritual of writing has been combined with her love of the visual to create a continuing story of her daily life. And from that, she has given us A BOOK OF DAYS.

Each page is a mixture of daily phone shots of her notebook, her favorite café, coffee and whatever she’s reading, images from her past and her present, pictures from her concerts (which are like revival meetings with her at the helm), and memories from her past as daughter, sister, wife, mother and artist.

Patti travels around the world and records her work and her visits to her heroes in their final resting places (including Arthur Rimbaud, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Sam Shepard). Each page of this book relates to a memory from that date during some farflung year. Not all the pictures are her own; some are vintage photos that help her collect memories about the living and the dead, her past and her present, her bandmates and her kids. Most poignant are the objects that she treasures --- a guitar, her mother’s pearls, flyers from her earliest live performances. There are oceans of time to fly over in this book, and Patti lands every day with a specific remembrance that is like a year-long Advent calendar for fans and newcomers alike.

Over the last decade, Patti has wrung out her very existence and fashioned for herself a mythology, only it comes with a poet’s tongue and a photographer’s eye. Unlike her previous memoirs, A BOOK OF DAYS gives us the evidence of the travels and relationships about which she has written so adroitly. The heart and soul with which she does every artistic act in her life is powerful, but quietly so. This is a volume that will become a touchstone for everyone who, in this twisted time, still has a taste for adventure, learning and the artist’s way.

Patti Smith’s audience is all of us, and to all of us she says “Live!” with great power. Power to the people, Patti. Thanks for sharing.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on November 21, 2022

A Book of Days
by Patti Smith

  • Publication Date: November 15, 2022
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 0593448545
  • ISBN-13: 9780593448540