Book Club: M Train by Patti Smith, Stations 6, 7 & 8 Discussion

Join in on this week’s book club discussion…

Do you remember your dreams? I don’t, save for a small roster of recurring oddities. Places from my past revisited again and again, a sporadic loop, recalled only in sputters and spurts long after their curtain closes. Mostly, I wake with a mood hanging over me — melancholy, a wisp of laughter, sadness…the last vestiges of what went on throughout the night in my head. I’ve often wondered what makes one person so susceptible to vivid dreams over another. I wake with a blank slate while M Train‘s author, Patti Smith, meets recurring characters. Her cicerone, the cowboy (who I can’t help but picture as Sam Elliot playing The Stranger in The Big Lebowski), guides her through her nightly alternate realities, offering words of mystic wisdom along the way.

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Smith’s world, or at least the way she tells of it, oscillating between cafes and cowboy dreams and far-off destinations, seems comfortable. As I read through these Stations I found myself wondering if this is the sort of comfort that comes with age, with living out the exciting days of youth, eventually settling into the routine of someone who’s seen much of the world. Someone who is content to leave some of those dreams behind, to let dreams be dreams. The way Smith writes of her life, there’s no razor’s edge of nostalgia, she appears to recall memories and events fondly without waxing overly poetic in a way you might expect from a writer looking back lovingly on their life. Her writing is even-keeled, even when speaking to the experience of finally being able to step through the gates of Casa Azul.

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Stations 6, 7, & 8 discussion questions:

– Do you believe it’s possible to live without time, the way the author and her husband did?

– Have you ever become obsessed with a fictional place or thing, the way the author did in Station 7? What was it? Why was it intriguing?

– Do you remember your dreams? Do you have a tool for remembering them, similar to the way Smith uses the alphabet in Station 8?

– Is there a landmark, like Casa Azul, you dream of one day visiting?

– Do your dreams have repeat characters? What do you think they represent?

What do you think The Cowboy represents?

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Comments

  1. – Do you believe it’s possible to live without time, the way the author and her husband did?
    I think there’s something fantastical in nature about the idea of living without time. I’m currently in my last semester of college. My days are still ruled by a clock that pushes me from point A to point B from the time I roll out of bed in the morning until I go to sleep at night. I do, however, remember my summers spent in grade school not being sure (and not caring) what day of the week it was. In childhood it’s easier to lose track of time and live in a timeless state. Maybe Patti Smith and her husband were living a sort of second childhood in that chapter of their lives. I’ll even go further to say that maybe there are still hours that go by where we don’t think about the time. When I’m on stage singing, when I have a day off and I’m sitting in front of my piano writing songs, I do not consider time. I don’t glance at the clock in my house, I don’t notice the time on my phone. Time doesn’t seem to exist when I’m immersed in music.

    – Have you ever become obsessed with a fictional place or thing, the way the author did in Station 7? What was it? Why was it intriguing?
    Books have been my escape since childhood, and I’ve often gotten attached to fictional places and even people. I also obsessed over Stars Hollow (the fictional town in Gilmore Girls), and I was really upset when I learned that it only existed on a studio lot. I think the intrigue comes from the fact that it’s already an escape for the viewer or reader, so it becomes a safe place, or at least a place of fascination. I’ve often found that I tend to obsess over fictional places that are very much so different from my environment.

    – Do you remember your dreams? Do you have a tool for remembering them, similar to the way Smith uses the alphabet in Station 8?
    I have insanely vivid dreams. Sometimes my dreams even seem to be slightly prophetic. I have conversations with people that are very meaningful, and I find myself picking them a part throughout the day. I don’t really have a tool for remembering my dreams. I feel like I remember the ones that are most important, but I do write down the most intriguing ones in my journals.

    – Is there a landmark, like Casa Azul, you dream of one day visiting?
    Traveling in general is important to me. I’ve seen different parts of Europe–London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, and Florence. Oddly enough, I’ve seen more of Europe than I have the US. I would definitely love to see more of the east coast, especially this time of year when the leaves are changing, and there’s a lot of history there. I find myself in awe of Patti Smith and her travels. She just seems so worldly, and I think that makes her such an influential poet.

    – Do your dreams have repeat characters? What do you think they represent?
    I rarely have recurring dreams, so when I do, I pay attention to them. There was a girl named Lily who started making appearances in many of my dreams. Lily is also my nickname, so I connected her to myself. She was always giving me advice, telling me to take a leap, so I can only guess that she’s representative of the risk taker in me who is somewhat timid at times.

    – What do you think The Cowboy represents?
    The Cowboy is an interesting guy. I think the first line in my journal from the day I bought this book was “It’s not easy writing about nothing.” It’s still baffling to me.

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