FOR the last few months I’ve been doing a series on musicians and their interest in literature and writers for the Los Angeles Review of Books. So far, all of these have been strong interviews with artists I love about figures I share an ardor for. In some cases, the conversations have taken me down intellectual alleyways I did not expect to go, which is even better. Each interview has been quite different from the last.
Patti Smith is by all measures a major, deeply influential musician going back to the mid-’70s: She was a kind of godmother to the New York punk movement. She’s drawn acclaim for her memoir Just Kids and other writing, as well as her advocacy of French poetry.
Smith now has a slim, strange new book called Devotion on Yale University Press, which blends a meditation on creativity with a fable-like piece of fiction. (This blog is inspired, of course, by my own book on YUP, Culture Crash, so I probably don’t have to underline how proud it makes me to be labelmates not just with Greil Marcus and Terry Eagleton but the great Ms. Smith.)
The interview with Smith, which took place a few hours after she walked in from a trip to Mexico City (for what I take it was a memorial event for Sam Shepard) was wide-ranging and, at least for me a lot of fun. For reasons of length I had to leave out a few lines, such as her fondness for Powell’s Books in Portland, her love of the early Camus novel, A Happy Death, or the difference between John and Paul. (Beatles, not Bible.) But the review busted out its word length — hat-tip to my editor Boris Dralyuk for the space — because of our shared love of her work.
Here, then, is my All the Poets interview with the great Patti Smith.