“Why do we write? A chorus erupts.
Because we cannot simply live.”
I adore Patti Smith. I’ve never been a huge fan of her music or followed her career. To me she is an artist that lives on the edge of my perception. I know her, but she is just there. A few years ago I picked up “Just Kids”, I don’t remember why. I loved it. Patti Smith lives life straight from the heart.
In devotion Smith takes the time to reflect and wonder about the creative process of writing. The book is split in three parts.
In the first part she describes her daily writing life, the way the mind wanders and meanders through life and the daily routines she builds in her travels.
The second part is a short story titled devotion, it is set in a cold place with a skater who skates and a man who comes to watch her. I was surprised that the tone of this story seemed oddly distanced. The same writing that seems to bleed when Smith is talking about her life, was suddenly stark and cold. I enjoyed the story just fine, but I prefer the autobiographical bits.
The last part details a visit to Camus’ home where she stays in his room and is allowed to view his last manuscript. This is a pretty overwhelming moment, one that is so beautifully crafted. Here in someone else’s work she finds her own passion, her urge to create.
“[…] slowly I discerned a familiar shift in my concentration. That compulsion that prohibits me from completely surrendering to a work of art, drawing me from the halls of a favorite museum to my own drawing table… That is the decisive power of a singular work: a call to action…. The words before me were elegant, blistering. My hands vibrated. Infused with confidence, I had the urge to bolt, mount the stairs, close the heavy door that had been his, sit before my own stack of foolscap and begin at my own beginning. An act of guiltless sacrilege.”
One has a sense that perhaps the short story in the middle began in that room at that moment. At least I like to think so. This is a very fragmented book, with bits and pieces – just like Smith seems to prefer it. It is a book that I’ll come back to many times, to savor, to learn, and to piece together in new ways.