In YEAR OF THE MONKEY, Patti Smith Merges Her “Life Concerns with Waking Dream and Fiction”

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This week’s Igloo Book Buzz selection is Patti Smith’s YEAR OF THE MONKEY, published by Knopf on September 24. A profound, beautifully realized memoir in which dreams and reality are vividly woven into a tapestry of one transformative year, Patti Smith says, “YEAR OF THE MONKEY traces my personal experience of 2016, the lunar year of the monkey, through the lenses of travel, dream and imagination. I decided on New Year’s Day to write consistently as I traveled, and it expanded into a somewhat experimental narrative, merging my life concerns with waking dream and fiction.”

Patti Smith (photo credit: Steven Sebring)

YEAR OF THE MONKEY was edited by Robin Desser, Vice President, Editorial Director, Knopf: “It is a total joy and privilege to work with Patti Smith. She’s an artist of the highest level of integrity, in whatever form the expression of her artistic vision takes her. She brings full-on attentiveness and care to every step of the editorial, production, and publishing process of her books; this makes her a beloved presence in our hallways at Knopf. Patti seems to me possessed of a unique magic that speaks to audiences of every generation and background. She is fully herself in her work, on the page as at the front of a band. YEAR OF THE MONKEY continues the dazzling odyssey she’s taken readers on in her bestselling and critically acclaimed memoirs, this time spanning a surprising year of travel and transformation, including a profound reckoning with both personal loss and political upheaval in America.

“With economy and lyricism, and a thrilling sense of adventure, this powerful book brings us to places we haven’t been with Patti before—a beach in California, the southwestern desert, a porch in Kentucky, Australia. The book is both melancholic and playful; it’s full of Patti Smith’s signature humor and grace—her unique receptiveness to life’s mysteries and magic. Patti has a way of finding beauty and truth in the everyday—and we see it in the pages of her new book even in the tragic, the uncanny, and the seemingly incomprehensible. We see it in her gorgeous prose as well as in the haunting Polaroids she has included. I’m thrilled we can now share this marvelous book—the product of so much careful and inspired work—with readers here and all over the world.”

A selection of praise:

“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

“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

Posted: September 25, 2019