Iconic poet, writer, and artist Smith (Just Kids, 2010, etc.) articulates the pensive rhythm of her life through the stations of her travels.
Spending much of her time crouched in a corner table of a Greenwich Village cafe sipping coffee, jotting quixotic notes in journals, and “plotting my next move,” the author reflects on the places she’s visited, the personal intercourse, and the impact each played on her past and present selves. She describes a time in 1978 when she planned to open her own cafe, but her plans changed following a chance meeting with MC5 guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, who swiftly stole and sealed her heart with marriage and children. A graceful, ruminative tour guide, Smith writes of traveling together with Fred armed with a vintage 1967 Polaroid to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni in northwest French Guiana, then of solitary journeys to Frida Kahlo’s Mexican Casa Azul and to the graves of Sylvia Plath, Jean Genet, and a swath of legendary Japanese filmmakers. After being seduced by Rockaway Beach in Queens and indulgently purchasing a ramshackle bungalow there, the property was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy—though she vowed to rebuild. In a hazy, often melancholy narrative, the author synchronizes past memories and contemporary musings on books, art, and Michigan life with Fred. Preferring to write productively from the comfort of her bed, Smith vividly describes herself as “an optimistic zombie propped up by pillows, producing pages of somnambulistic fruit.” She spent seasons of lethargy binge-watching crime TV, arguing with her remote control, venturing out to a spontaneous and awkward meeting with chess great Bobby Fischer, and trekking off to interview Paul Bowles in Tangiers. No matter the distance life may take her, Smith always recovers some semblance of normalcy with the simplistic pleasures of a deli coffee on her Gotham stoop, her mind constantly buoyed by humanity, art, and memory.
Not as focused as Just Kids, but an atmospheric, moody, and bittersweet memoir to be savored and pondered.