Unlike Just Kids where Smith presents a rather linear story about her life and relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, M Train is much more stream of consciousness – a compilation of recollections of Smith’s life and travels as she recalls them from her favorite seat in her favorite coffee shop. The title of the book could almost be thought of as “Memory Train” as each section Smith takes you with her on a trip into her past.
Her memories in this memoir revolve around person’s, places and things. This is an aspect of this memoir that I found particularly fascinating. Many memoirs tend to focus on interactions with people, pets or places the author has been, however Smith recognizes that objects often hold with them the memories that we associate with them. In M Train one of those objects is a novel by Haruki Murakami that captures Smith’s imagination to the point that it influences her travels.
Admittedly I enjoyed the linear style of Just Kids more than the stream of conscious style found in M Train – the truth is, it feels like I got to know Smith much better in M Train despite this preference. M Train was far more introspective than Just Kids. Smith allows you into her life in M Train, allowing far more emotion than what was provided in her other memoir.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about M Train is the difference in style – especially if you are going into it with the expectation of reading something similar to Just Kids. The stories in M Train are connected, so you will not be entirely deprived, however, of a linear story.
M Train, just like Just Kids are two books that I plan on revisiting in the future. They were both too captivating for just a single read.