The Smiths: M Train by Patti & Autumn by Ali

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Just Kids was one of my favourite reads of 2016. Utterly absorbing and dream-like, yet completely everyday in its themes. I'm surprised it took me this long to pick up my copy of M Train (my first read of 2017 and a very good start indeed). I feel like Patti's world and way of seeing things has been in the back of my mind ever since closing that last page of Just Kids. M Train certainly fulfilled that craving for more. In fact, I may have even liked it more than the previous. Hearing about Patti's travels around the world on her own, writing, meeting old friends, taking part in bizarre, artistic events that only Patti could be a part of, was glorious. Her descriptions evoke so many emotions, it's hard not to believe that you're also there. The way she writes about her late husband, Fred, makes him feel like a constant companion, despite the majority of the book taking place long after his death. Patti has such a love for him, for art, for literature, for beauty in the everyday, it's hard not to latch onto this and start looking at things in the same way. Her ephemera is art. Her morning coffee routine is art. Her long black coat is art. Patti's memoirs make me want to go on adventures in my own neighbourhood and across the world, finding inspiration and beauty in all that I see. I'm going to plough my way through her poetry collections now, in hope that I find more of these feelings.

With the other Smith we have fiction, the first in a collection of four novels based on the seasons of the year. In Autumn, the perspective shifts between Elisabeth and Daniel, close friends, confidantes, and next-door neighbours since Elisabeth's youth. Daniel is now 101, living in a care home, spending most of his time under induced sleep. He dreams of youth and freedom and nature. Elisabeth argues with post office clerks about her passport, muses on the controversial art of Pauline Botys, and lives in a world leading up to the Brexit vote. Despite this glaring look at an issue of contemporary society, the book feels timeless, maybe through its Keats- or Dickensian references, like most things Ali Smith writes. Even the scenes outside of Daniel's sleep feel dream-like as Elisabeth floats through the world in a daze, researching art and art history (another theme prevalent in Smith's work). Like Patti's books, I would love to live in Ali's world. There is art everywhere, and all art has a story. It just takes a bit of digging to find it.

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