The NYPL Podcast
Podcast #82: Patti Smith on Authors She Loves
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Patti Smith, musical icon and National Book Award winner, hero to aesthetes and rebels, is an NYPL favorite. The last time Smith visited, she told us about her lifelong love affair with libraries. This week, in celebration of her new book M Train, the New York Public Library is proud to present Patti Smith discussing the authors she loves.
Prior to her appearance at Live from the NYPL, Smith was shown Sylvia Plath's notebooks held by the Library. She described the experience as a window into understanding Plath's lifelong identity as a poet:
"We saw her notebook from when she was a little girl and poems from when she was seven, nine. It made me realize what a scattered child I was. She was so precise. She had her little notebook. She had her poems, all different stages of her life. She was truly a poet. She was just born a poet. It was very touching to see her manuscripts from childhood to later in life and beautiful that you have them."
Although Smith has now written two memoirs, she prefers fiction. One exception, however, is Jean Genet's The Thief's Journal, a work straddling autobiography and fiction, the real and imagined:
"The Thief's Journal is my favorite book of Genet's... I love it because he writes my kind of memoir. It's a memoir yet it's completely true and simultaneously completely false, because that's the kind of guy Genet was. But when I say false, I mean that's the part that he transforms truth into art. He elevates it as poetry. I don't even like reading memoirs. People say, 'Who's your favorite memoirist? Whose memoirs do you like?' I hardly ever read them. I like fiction really. Really strange that I should be writing nonfiction, but it just happened."
Despite her success as an author, Smith says she is reticent to meet authors whose work she loves. She ascribes this not to previous disappointments but to paroxysms of excitement:
"Every time I've met a writer, well not every time, it's always a disaster because I get so excited. I wrote this actually, so I'm repeating myself but it's a true thing: I feel like Chris Farley because I see an author I like that's alive, you know that's so rare to actually like a writer and they're actually living, and I get so excited. And all I can say is, 'Oh An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter! It was awesome. Oh The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle! It was awesome!' I don't have anything else to say really."
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