This past summer, as I was wandering through the poetry section in Vargos Bookstore downtown (a location I frequent an embarrassing amount), I saw a book titled “Coral Sea” by Patti Smith. I was intrigued because as an avid fan of punk/folk styles of music, I had always wondered what Patti Smith was all about. I had never really listened to her music, yet I knew that she was known as one of the first punk artists. With that mystery in mind, I bought the book without any knowledge of its content.
That night, I laid in bed and began to read the book. I was not anticipating reading the whole book front to back, but that is exactly what happened. My heavy heart and tear filled eyes could not put it down. I quickly learned about the book's premise; a stylistic obituary and story of the love and loss that existed between Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.
The story is an extremely difficult piece of literature to summarize. Each chapter acts as a semi-independent scene in which a Billy Budd-esque character seeks the temporal greatness to ascend to a better life. Every part of this book is hyper stylized and lucid, calling upon magic and fantasy to communicate the very reality of sickness, love, death, heartbreak and greatness. The story is written in a prose-classical storytelling style, similar to biblical texts such as the Book of Job.
After I finished the book, I listened to the album “Horses,” by Patti Smith. From the beginning to the end note, the album spoke about a lot of the fantastical events of life that “Coral Sea” referenced. They were two different mediums of Smith’s art, created at different times, telling different stories-but the voice was noticeably the same. A desperate desire to tell a story that needs to be told, and will never be comprehended for its true power of vitality and tragedy was expressed through a varying tempo of instrumental use, as well as gorgeous, creative lyrics, characteristic of all of Smith’s art. If you are seeking an emotional, introspective experience in music or literature, Patti Smith is the artist I recommend, although tissues and privacy may be necessary.