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Year of the Monkey

Written by: Patti Smith
Narrated by: Patti Smith
Length: 3 hrs and 49 mins
5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids and M Train, a profound, beautifully realized memoir in which dreams and reality are vividly woven into a tapestry of one transformative year.

Following a run of New Year's concerts at San Francisco's legendary Fillmore, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary wandering. Unfettered by logic or time, she draws us into her private wonderland with no design, yet heeding signs - including a talking sign that looms above her, prodding and sparring like the Cheshire Cat. In February, a surreal lunar year begins, bringing with it unexpected turns, heightened mischief, and inescapable sorrow. In a stranger's words, "Anything is possible: after all, it's the Year of the Monkey." For Smith - inveterately curious, always exploring, tracking thoughts, writing - the year evolves as one of reckoning with the changes in life's gyre: with loss, aging, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America.

Smith melds the western landscape with her own dreamscape. Taking us from California to the Arizona desert; to a Kentucky farm as the amanuensis of a friend in crisis; to the hospital room of a valued mentor; and by turns to remembered and imagined places, this haunting memoir blends fact and fiction with poetic mastery. The unexpected happens; grief and disillusionment set in. But as Smith heads toward a new decade in her own life, she offers this balm to the listener: her wisdom, wit, gimlet eye, and above all, a rugged hope for a better world.

Riveting, elegant, often humorous, Year of the Monkey is a moving and original work, a touchstone for our turbulent times.

©2019 Patti Smith (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"Her best days as a punk rock priestess may be behind her, but even at age 70, Patti Smith is still a working-class hero asking questions about life, love, and dreams.... She delivers wry observations of contemporary life, hers and the nation's. Her observations, imagery, and iconic non-rhyming poetry can best be appreciated when delivered by the artist herself. The memoir is a little bit of a lot of things, all tied up in a stream-of-consciousness trip across the country and across her own life as she enters her septuagenarian years." (AudioFile Magazine)

"Smith began writing Year of the Monkey on New Year’s Day 2016, a transformative year for the artist that brought aging, the loss of friends, and overall disillusionment. Juxtaposed with this personal narrative are Smith's descriptions of western landscapes she visited.... Fact and fiction increasingly blur, a combination made surreal by Smith's obsession with details that keep popping up in various locations.... A gripping tale of the search for meaning in times of turbulence - expressed with Smith’s signature poetic flair." (Christian Allaire, Vogue

"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.'" (The Oprah Magazine

"Smith’s grace and erudite philosophy is a welcome balm in these times.... Her latest memoir is an introspective look at her year of solo wandering - she documents that year’s massive political and social change her own lyrical way. The American canon is littered with 'road trip memoirs,' but if there’s a voice we’d want to add to that genre, it would be Smith." (Town & Country

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    5 out of 5 stars

Patti Smith the literary muse

Listening to this audiobook read by Patti is, for the true Smith fan, the most sublime and richly rewarding listen. Her poetic voice, surrealistic associations, threads of Dreamtime, monkey business, rabbit wisdom, and the souls of dear old friends weave throughout this memoir in a magical, hyper-reality state of motion, life as journey, journey as life. As a winter, Patti gets better and better. A true gem, a love song, a prophetic tribute to lasting truths in an era of misinformation. A literary triumph.

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  • A Reader
  • 2019-09-30

Poetry in story, story in poetry

In dreamlike prose, Patti Smith tells a story of loss and beauty, hope and anxiety, art and destruction. Her characters are drawn in broad brushstrokes that render their lives complex, contradictory, whole. This book is a dream bracketed by the quotidian world, the story of life bracketed by the boundaries of the body. It was not at all what I expected. I loved it. It certainly will now be everyone’s cup of tea. But honestly, I think it probably makes the world a more compassionate place by its mere existence.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Aloha Jersey Girl
  • 2019-12-03

M Train Meets Naked Lunch

In yet another beautiful piece of writing, Patti Smith seamlessly interweaves everyday, ordinary moments with dream life so that we're often unsure whether a scene or conversation is occurring in real life, in her imagination, or in her dreams. If you liked M Train, you'll probably like this too, though M Train is far more focused on the quotidian--the minutiae of everyday routines and occurrences that come together to make up a life. This book reminded me a lot of the film David Cronenburg made of Burroughs's Naked Lunch: dreams and reality melting together, leaving us a bit off-kilter. In the end, it hardly matters what is real and what is dreamed, and it seems Smith wants the reader to not only know this is the case but to experience that bleed-through and uncertainty through her. Her prose mimics her content, mellifluously melting and flowing--though this appears to be her natural writing voice, as it is consistent throughout all of her books. This book is not for someone who is attached to plot or needs something to be accomplished, overcome or changed. If the only book of hers you've read is Just Kids, understand that Year of the Monkey--like M Train--is not so tied to story, nor as focused as Just Kids, but is more conceptual and presents itself as stream-of-consciousness; though, clearly, her intent in constructing it is deliberate. As she follows her mind's tangents along threads that deal with one's duty to others, mortality and the loss of treasured friends and family members, political upheaval and despair, and the beauty of simple moments captured by memory, she also traipses the geographic landscape from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, San Diego, LA, New York, Kentucky, and Virginia. I so loved her reading of the book that I now want to reread M Train, this time listening on Audible, so that I can hear her read it. I love how her deep voice, flat intonation and South Jersey/Philadelphia accent bring her prose to life.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-11-17

She Pulls Us Through The Mystery

I listened over and over. Her narrative gathers and speaks the deepest places of the soul. Her honesty so bare, with the last thought always of hope. The words are prayers.

3 people found this helpful

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  • janna
  • 2019-11-16

Patti’s Voice

This book is a book of stories and poems. Good stories and poems land best in the oral tradition. Patti’s voice brings the poetry and stories together wonderfully. This is a book I preferred to listen to than to read.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Elizabeth
  • 2019-11-09

where reality, poetry,and dreams collide...amazing

I love listening to Patti. So raw, open, and honest. May we never repeat The year of the Monkey.

3 people found this helpful

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  • William Felling Jr.
  • 2019-11-28

not as good as JUST KIDS but still good

JUST KIDS was about Maplethorpe and her relationship with him so he became another focal point. this book is really just about Patti and her view of almost everyone in her life...except Maplethorpe. so at times it seems like she is trying to show us how deep she is. But at heart she is a poet so the rythem of her words is hypnotic. I wanted to put this book down several times but I kept being drawn in by it's soothing tones and her cultural encounters. she is a totally unique and thoughtful woman. and, everyone would enjoy her insight.

2 people found this helpful

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  • F. S.
  • 2019-11-11

Excellent reading.

A powerful reading by author of her thoughtful and poignant book. It seems to be a stream of consciousness or a dream state retelling. Loved it!

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Gary Ghirardi
  • 2019-10-28

Monkey poet

An intense and poetic autobiographical account of Patti Smith's process of moving through this exceptional life. The reader, or in my case listener, needs not be of a monkey mind.

4 people found this helpful

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  • ioff13
  • 2019-12-30

Inimitable Writing from and Inimitable Voice

Really beautiful writing by Patti. Her voice and words draw you in to her mind and open a door into your own, the listener/reader. A good listen to help one reflect on one's own life and the meanings of our lives themselves.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tom
  • 2020-01-15

Just listening to her is pure poetry.

Patti Smith makes it so easy to experience the simplest activities of life through her eyes and the depth of those experiences are so evocative.

“The problem of dreaming is that we must wake up”
You don’t want her to stop because the dream is so good. Even the sorrows she tastes in this year have meanings that make the reader understand better their own lives.

Very enjoyable read. A very Patti Smith read.