literature | September 24, 2019

“Dreamy Recollection of a Terrible Year”: Vox Reviews Patti Smith’s Year of the Monkey

The legendary musician’s third memoir walks readers through the tumultuous year of 2016, in which the nation’s collective despair collided with her own personal grief.

In the opening of Year of the Monkey, Patti Smith says goodbye to her longtime friend and music producer, Sandy Pearlman. This is the first, but not the last, of the difficult moments that Smith goes through. We follow her through a year of ups and downs, from hitchhiking through the desert, meeting an oddball cast of strange and wonderful people, to heading to Kentucky and helping her former lover and cherished friend Sam Shephard finish his final work (he passed away shortly after of Lou Gehrig’s disease).


In their review of the book Vox notes that it’s the first time Smith has opened up about her relationship with Shephard in such a personal and frank way, unwilling or unable to hide her devastation at his deteriorating condition: “This is Smith’s modus operandi. She unfurls a long dreamscape of a scene: the blue light of a country house at night, the horses, the rocking chairs. Then she punches you in the gut with the emotional point—even the people you can’t live without are, in fact, people you might outlive—and pulls you into another dream.”


Read the full review here.


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