For the last few months I have lived with Patti Smith. I have carried her non-fiction book “M Train” around with me wherever I have gone – to work, on a day trip, on a bus journey, on a trip to the pub with friends and to bed. When I have found a “reading space,” I have opened the book to look at the pictures and to read a few lines. So far I am on page 128 and will keep reading.
This morning I read the postscript to the paperback version of the book and lived with her those few moments in her favourite cafe. I feel her loss at a place which was so central to her life and work in New York. She describes sitting on her bed waiting for a TV programme called “Luther,” and realises she is a day too soon. Instead she watches a episode of “Murder She Wrote.” Like Patti I look forward to detective programmes. “Murder She Wrote” was a staple of my teenage years along with “Cagney and Lacey.” I recently saw a back episode of Sharon Gless on a BBC book programme discussing her taste in literature and the books which has formed her. I remembered Cagney and Lacey with affection and felt a loss for those earlier days of crime fiction. Sharon Gless and Tyne Daley were the precursors of the modern female crime detective and are still a role model.
With Cafe Ino closed and “The Killing” cancelled mid-series Patti writes to the show’s producer, Veena Sud. This letter leads to an exchange and an offer for Patti to take part in an episode of the show. For Patti, a great fan of detective thrillers, this is a stellar event and a fitting tribute to her status as an icon, writer, artist and television fan. She also starred in the final season of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” which I think is a wonderful tribute.
I am reminded of another great idol of mine who loves television: Fran Lebowitz. Fran also starred in “Law and Order.” I remember her performances well and glad she shared it with us.
In the New Yorker of October 6th 2016, Anwen Crawford notes that Smith’s new book M Train is a ramble through her mind, her life, her experiences, her present and her past. Smith has left the bright “young woman of “Just Kids” was at one with the city’s pulse, but in this book Smith seems out of time: she longs for subway tokens instead of a MetroCard; she observes New Year’s Eve from her stoop, not venturing farther. She wants to leave New York, and does so frequently, only to return again, from force of habit, if nothing else. There is an indelible sadness to “M Train,” borne of bereavement, ageing, and isolation.” I feel the same spirit when listening to current talks by Fran Lebowitz.
Their currently melancholy is, I feel, fitting to the age in which we live.