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Reviews for A Book Of Days

by Patti Smith

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

“I write and take pictures every day,” Smith tells us, and, indeed, her photographs appear in her memoirs, most recently The Year of the Monkey (2019). This dual practice brought her to Instagram and now blossoms in this art volume marking each of the 366 days in a leap year with a photograph and caption. Noting births, deaths, and anniversaries, Smith poignantly mixes pictures from her Chicago childhood, early New York years, family life with Fred “Sonic” Smith, and various pilgrimages with new images, some chronicling the pandemic. Detecting the sacred everywhere she looks, Smith photographs her “desk talismans” and personal shrines to such guiding lights as Arthur Rimbaud, Sam Shepard, William Burroughs, Greta Thunberg, and Haruki Murakami. So extensive are her tributes, she provides “Suggested Readings.” Her images of coffee cups and gravestones, beaches and gardens are intimate and poetic; her captions are tender, imaginative, funny, and elegiac. Laced with gratitude and wonder, this is a transporting and affecting tour of Smith’s influences and aesthetics, an evocative celebration of her devotion to creativity and “the blessed task of remembrance.”

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Smith returns with a photo-heavy book of days, celebrating births, deaths, and the quotidian, all anchored by her distinctive style. In 2018, the musician and National Book Award–winning author began posting on Instagram, and the account quickly took off. Inspired by the captioned photo format, this book provides an image for every day of the year and descriptions that are by turns intimate, humorous, and insightful, and each bit of text adds human depth to the image. Smith, who writes and takes pictures every day, is clearly comfortable with the social media platform—which “has served as a way to share old and new discoveries, celebrate birthdays, remember the departed, and salute our youth”—and the material translates well to the page. The book, which is both visually impactful and lyrically moving, uses Instagram as a point of departure, but it goes well beyond to plumb Smith’s extensive archives. The deeply personal collection of photos includes old Polaroid images, recent cellphone snapshots, and much-thumbed film prints, spanning across decades to bring readers from the counterculture movement of the 1960s to the present. Many pages are taken up with the graves and birthdays of writers and artists, many of whom the author knew personally. We also meet her cat, “Cairo, my Abyssinian. A sweet little thing the color of the pyramids, with a loyal and peaceful disposition.” Part calendar, part memoir, and part cultural record, the book serves as a rich exploration of the author’s fascinating mind. “Offered in gratitude, as a place to be heartened, even in the basest of times,” it reminds us that “each day is precious, for we are yet breathing, moved by the way light falls on a high branch, or a morning worktable, or the sculpted headstone of a beloved poet.” A powerful melding of image and text inspired by Instagram yet original in its execution. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Rock star Smith (Year of the Monkey) unfurls a vibrant photo scrapbook created during the Covid-19 pandemic and inspired by the “exploding collage” of social media culture. The photos include selections from Smith’s personal archive, as well as cellphone snapshots and Polaroids. There is one photo for each day of the year, and the short accompanying text often references cultural figures, whether William S. Burroughs or Greta Thunberg. Smith also recounts moments from her own life, including riding her first bike as a child and outtakes from her 1970s punk heyday. Recurring figures include her late partner, Robert Mapplethorpe, and her daughter, Jesse, who encouraged Smith to join Instagram. The captions often take the form of straightforward descriptions (“The desk of the great writer Jorge Luis Borges lives in the National Library in Buenos Aires”), but Smith’s personal photos provide moments for deeper introspection (“This is my thinking chair. I sit and let it take me where it will, as if it were a small wooden ship”). Below a photo of One World Trade Center, Smith writes, “A city of burning days and consecrated nights, utterly transformed from the New York I once knew.” Wrapped in a nostalgic glow, this will be an inspiration for Smith’s fans. Agent: Betsy Lerner, Dunow, Carlson, & Lerner. (Nov.)