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Patti Smith’s M Train and the music memoir as a literary text

McCarthy, Amy ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2183-3816 (2018) Patti Smith’s M Train and the music memoir as a literary text. In: Twisting My Memory, Man: Music, Memory and Memoir Symposium, 13 & 14 July 2018, York St John University. (Unpublished)

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‘I drink too much coffee and think of you often’ Patti Smith’s M Train and the music memoir as a literary text..pptx - Accepted Version


This paper will consider the appropriation of fiction in memoirs and why music memoirs should be considered literary texts. Sidonie Smith in Reading Autobiography argues: ‘memoir writing exposes how autobiographical acts take place at cultural sites where discourses intersect, conflict, and compete with one another, as narrators are pulled and tugged into complex and contradictory self-positionings through a performative dialogism’ (Smith, 1987, p.165). Autobiographies traditionally are a chronological account of an individual’s life whereas a memoir has the freedom to explore a ‘cultural site’ in further detail by using fictional elements to exploit the contradicting and complex thought of the writer. This paper will argue music memoirs are literary texts and I will use Patti Smith’s M Train as a case study. M Train weaves fiction and reality together and deals with the loss of her husband Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith in a nonlinear narrative, which is anchored by coffee shops and the words of artists Smith admires. Smith incorporates photographs, dreams, and television into the memoir to explain feelings and emotions surrounding grief. Patti Smith’s poetry and music are confessional, bricolage works of art and her memoirs reflect that artistry too. I will also discuss Smith’s memoir Just Kids, which has a traditional, linear structure and I will highlight how memoirs are more than just an autobiography of a musician’s life – memoirs are another platform for artistic expression. Ultimately, music memoirs should be considered for their literary merit and the creativity put into the telling of life stories.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Unpublished
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/6441

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