Patti Smith’s new memoir is a dreamy recollection of a terrible year

By | 2019-09-26 | including 1 item |
The Year of the Monkey, the third memoir by singer, artist, writer, and New York counterculture icon Patti Smith starts in San Francisco, at the Fillmore at midnight, with a stranger barfing on her boots. “Happy New Year,” Smith says to them, to kick off 2016. Her longtime friend, the beloved rock producer Sandy Pearlman, is nearby on life support. She spends the book’s opening pages waiting out the end of his life, coasting through grief at a surprisingly-not-fictional motel by the ocean called the Dream Inn, and heading into an almost-definitely-fictional mystery: The beach, she says, is covered in thousands of empty candy wrappers, all of them a little bit odd (wrong spellings, weird colors), and nobody will tell her why. She drifts from diner to diner, occasionally overhearing what sounds like a clue. One day, the candy wrappers are on fire, creating a beautiful line of “toxic bonfires” full of “artificial autumn leaves.” “What was needed was a bit of geometric thinking to lay it all out,” she tells herself, as if to kick off something cinematic, like a montage in a dusty reference library.