Year of the Monkey

Year of the Monkey is a memoir by Patti Smith.

Patti Smith

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 reader: her wisdom, wit, gimlet eye, and above all, a rugged hope for a better world.

Riveting, elegant, often humorous, illustrated by Smith's signature Polaroids, Year of the Monkey is a moving and original work, a touchstone for our turbulent times.

Smith is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and award-winning author. Her previous books include the National Book Award winner Just Kids and M Train.

Interviews with Patti Smith

Patti Smith: a disciplined artist

10 years ago
Duration 5:45
The punk pioneer, award-winning writer and noted photographer talks to CBC's Deana Sumanac about her multi-hyphenate status and expressing different sides of herself through her music and art.

Patti Smith tackles memories in M Train

7 years ago
Duration 2:47
The rocker, writer and photographer revisits her past, her loves and her art in her latest memoir

Patti Smith on her favourite Canadian artists

7 years ago
Duration 1:28
Punk pioneer Patti Smith sat down with CBC News' Deana Sumanac-Johnson to discuss her favourite Canadian musicians, and one choice — a notable classical pianist — might surprise you.
The iconic American musician, writer and photographer talked to Eleanor Wachtel onstage in 2013 to celebrate the launch of her photo exhibit, Camera Solo.
Patti Smith on her new album, Banga, breaking rules, Neil Young, the environment, and her secret to happiness.
Eleanor Wachtel talks to American singer-songerwriter, poet, and visual artist Patti Smith.
Singer-songwriter Patti Smith joins Shad to discuss her new memoir, her hard-won lessons and her surprising passions.

Other books by Patti Smith


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