Devotion, by Patti Smith
Patti Smith: the writer and artist appears to have reached the too-famous-to-edit pedestal. Photograph: Philip Montgomery/New York Times
Yale University Press
Dearie me. Patti Smith appears to have reached the too-famous-to-edit pedestal. Her 100-page riff, for a series inspired by George Orwell’s Why I Write (sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, political purpose), is woeful. There’s a clunky introduction; scribbled travel-diary sentences – “I hurry through the terminal;” “I order a plate of ham and eggs” – a shuffling walk past her fave icons (Rimbaud, Verlaine, Paris, Jesus, Simone Veil); a piece of short fiction featuring a young girl and her sugar daddy, “a solitary man of unusual control, hardy and virile, yet uniquely sensitive having already negotiated the spectrum of academics, risk, art and excess”; a visit to Camus’s house, his final manuscript, our girl musing that “one could not help but thank the gods for apportioning Camus with a righteous and judicious pen”, barely curbing the urge to rush upstairs and let her own genius flow. Patti, no! Insanity that the scrawny twentysomething genius who gave us Horses, Piss Factory and Because the Night writes thusly, but that’s showbiz. No doubt Devotion will sell like hot wafers.