Year of the Monkey (Hardcover)

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From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids and M Train, a profound, beautifully realized memoir in which dreams and reality are vividly woven into a tapestry of one transformative year.

Following a run of New Year's concerts at San Francisco's legendary Fillmore, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary wandering. Unfettered by logic or time, she draws us into her private wonderland with no design, yet heeding signs--including a talking sign that looms above her, prodding and sparring like the Cheshire Cat. In February, a surreal lunar year begins, bringing with it unexpected turns, heightened mischief, and inescapable sorrow. In a stranger's words, "Anything is possible: after all, it's the Year of the Monkey." For Smith--inveterately curious, always exploring, tracking thoughts, writing--the year evolves as one of reckoning with the changes in life's gyre: with loss, aging, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America.

Smith melds the western landscape with her own dreamscape. Taking us from California to the Arizona desert; to a Kentucky farm as the amanuensis of a friend in crisis; to the hospital room of a valued mentor; and by turns to remembered and imagined places, this haunting memoir blends fact and fiction with poetic mastery. The unexpected happens; grief and disillusionment set in. But as Smith heads toward a new decade in her own life, she offers this balm to the reader: her wisdom, wit, gimlet eye, and above all, a rugged hope for a better world.

Riveting, elegant, often humorous, illustrated by Smith's signature Polaroids, Year of the Monkey is a moving and original work, a touchstone for our turbulent times.

About the Author

PATTI SMITH is the author of Just Kids, which won the National Book Award in 2010, and of M Train, as well as numerous collections of poetry and essays. Her seminal album Horses has been hailed as one of the top 100 albums of all time. In 2005, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Smith the title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres; she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Praise For…

“Poignant, gorgeous—a picaresque voyage through Patti Smith’s dreams and life, blending fiction and reality, conjured characters and actual ones. She writes of seeing her image reflected on the surface of the toaster: ‘I noticed I looked young and old simultaneously.’ That describes her spirit perfectly.” —Maureen Dowd, The New York Times
“Moving—an account of physical and intellectual wanderings . . . Smith does not rage against her approaching 70th birthday, nor does she turn away from it. She finds art everywhere, and remains a pioneer, the same rules-shattering poet and National Book Award-winning writer . . . She is, as she writes in Year of the Monkey, ‘still going about my business, that of being alive, the best I can.’” —Jack Cline, The Washington Post

“Smith began writing Year of the Monkey on New Year’s Day 2016, a transformative year for the artist that brought aging, the loss of friends, and overall disillusionment. Juxtaposed with this personal narrative are Smith's descriptions of western landscapes she visited . . . Fact and fiction increasingly blur, a combination made surreal by Smith's obsession with details that keep popping up in various locations . . . A gripping tale of the search for meaning in times of turbulence—expressed with Smith’s signature poetic flair.” —Christian Allaire, Vogue
“Since 1975, Patti Smith has been blurring the lines between music, poetry, and prose, howling with grief and roaring with delight, whether onstage or via the written word. Year of the Monkey [is] her preternatural latest memoir . . . In this slim, hallucinatory volume, Smith roves the country in real time, visiting favorite haunts, hitching rides with strangers, contemplating the fuzzy border between waking and dreaming, and mourning the results of the 2016 presidential election. But just as a sense of gloom begins to settle, the sun peeks through the clouds. For while ‘there is nothing in heaven like the suffering of real life...,’ she writes, ‘I still keep thinking something wonderful is about to happen.’” —Leigh Haber, O, The Oprah Magazine
“Smith’s grace and erudite philosophy is a welcome balm in these times . . . Her latest memoir is an introspective look at her year of solo wandering—she documents that year’s massive political and social change her own lyrical way. The American canon is littered with ‘road trip memoirs,’ but if there’s a voice we’d want to add to that genre, it would be Smith.” Town & Country
“Lovely, dreamlike . . . a slim volume [with a] minor-key melancholy. The punk poet’s latest memoir unfold like the stack of old Polaroids in her New York apartment: ‘One after another, each a talisman on a necklace of continuous travels.’” Entertainment Weekly

“A lyrical retelling of one nomadic year . . . Smith writes, ‘I could feel the gravitational pull of home, which when I’m home becomes the gravitational pull of somewhere else.’” —Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair
“In her poetic prose and [with] snaps of her trusty Polaroid camera, Smith captures truth and beauty, challenges and victories. Year of the Monkey traces her year of wandering across California’s Santa Cruz coast and the West, searching for answers for questions she never knew she had . . . Smith’s writing is impressionistic; fact and fiction intermix and she captures authentic moments that never fade away.” —Drew Tewksbury, Los Angeles Times

“Whether it’s guttural, poetic lyricism or compassionate nonfiction, Patti Smith’s writing style and ability are truly unrivaled. In Year of the Monkey, her words are paired with Polaroids as she explores aging, grief and the dire global embrace of right-wing nationalism.” 
—Lizzie Manno, Paste

“In the time since her exquisite memoir Just Kids won the National Book Award in 2010, godmother of punk Patti Smith has been documenting her travels with her pen and trusty Polaroid. In Year of the Monkey, her wanderlust drives her from San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Arizona to Kentucky to New York . . . Along the way, she meets fellow nomads, mourns for loved ones both in the process of dying and those long gone, and she drinks a whole lot of coffee. A keen observer of the world around her, Smith is equally adept at documenting her inner terrain. Wherever she wanders, it’s always worth the trip.” —Emily Rems, Bust

“This is the modern-day Patti Smith: older, wiser, seeing the world, and reporting it all back to us in only the way she can. You can’t read this and not feel inspired after you put it down.” Inside Hook
“Over the course of a year leading up to her 70th birthday, rock legend Patti Smith stood witness to the fragility of life. There’s an explicit dreamlike quality and focus to The Year of the Monkey, which offers a very specific glimpse into the life of an artist facing her mortality without coasting. Through her trips, cups of coffee, and dreams, Smith radiates compassionate and concern as she meditates upon the practice of sitting with loss and change during ever-turbulent times.” —Lauren LeBlanc, Observer

“From meditations on poetry, politics, art, and dreams, to her own lyrical way of interacting with the world, Year of the Monkey confirms Patti Smith cannot be boxed in by either genre or medium. The book also includes Smith's Polaroids from her travels—yes, she is somehow a talented photographer on top of everything else.”
—Jeva Lange, The Week
“A melancholy mood and poetic language distinguish Smith’s third memoir, set during the Chinese year of the monkey, the year when she moves from age 69 to 70. She begins on New Year’s Day, 2016, the morning after finishing a three-night run at the Fillmore in San Francisco and sitting at the deathbed of a long-time friendwho introduced her to City Lights, Caffe Trieste and the Grateful Dead. She chronicles cafés, hitchhiking trips, strange motels in Santa Cruz and vivid dreams. With great tenderness, she describes visiting Sam Shepard in the final months of his life and helping him get his last book completed.”
—Jane Ciabattari, BBC
“It was a year of disruption, wandering, dreams and surreal visions: this year of the monkey on the Chinese zodiac was also the year Smith turned 70, and a trickster election hurled the country into a dark looking-glass realm. Smith writes with fresh lucidity, wit, bittersweet wonder, and stoic sorrow, shifting in tone from lyrical to hallucinatory to hard-boiled as she describes her meditative and investigative meanderings along the Pacific coast and in the desert. Keenly sensitive to atmosphere, she finds herself ‘in the middle of the unexplained’ as she travels with cosmic spontaneity and ‘an almost religious simplicity’ . . . She remembers her life-saving childhood library and a cherished, then dying friend. Smith also chronicles with exquisite poignancy her last visits with her soul mate Sam Shepherd . . . Elegiac, vital, and magical.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist  [starred review]

“Luminous . . . Smith wanders between waking and dreaming in a year filled with the death of a close friend and the political turmoil of the 2016 election . . . In light of her 70th birthday, she writes lyrically on various subjects: she describes Allen Ginsberg’s poetry, which she carries along her travels­, as an ‘expansive hydrogen bomb;’ caught up in Belinda Carlisle’s infectious beat, she imagines a ‘nonviolent hubris spreading across the land.’ She discovers that her most meaningful insights come from her vivid dreams, and she feels a palpable melancholia over having to wake up from them. Smith casts a mesmerizing spell with exquisite prose.”
Publishers Weekly [starred review]
“Intriguing—a memoir that evolves around the transformations both in Smith’s life and the American political landscape. Disturbing yet humorous, with the boundary between fiction and nonfiction blurred, Smith’s work is unlikely to disappoint.”
Jianan Qian, The Millions

“Captivating . . . a chronicle of a year filled with deep losses and rich epiphanies. The titular year, 2016, set Smith, [who] refers to herself as the ‘poet detective,’ on a quixotic quest, with a mysterious companion unexpectedly reappearing amid a backdrop of rock touring, vagabond traveling, and a poisonous political landscape. Throughout, Smith ponders time and mortality—no surprise considering her milestone birthday, and the experience of losing friends who have meant so much to her. She stresses the importance of memory, and the timeless nature of a person's spirit . . . Redemptive.” 
Kirkus [starred review]
Product Details
ISBN: 9780525657682
ISBN-10: 0525657681
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: September 24th, 2019
Pages: 192