The “Transmutation” of Objects

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For Open Culture, Ayun Halliday investigates Patti Smith’s relationship to objects and literature, highlighting how the songwriter, artist, and author looks to objects in order to feel “closer” to her favorite writers:

She and husband Smith celebrated their first anniversary by collecting stones from the French Guiana penal colony, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, in an effort to feel closer to Jean Genet, one of her most revered authors. She believes in the transmutation of objects, unabashedly lobbying to liberate the walking stick that accompanied Virginia Woolf to her death from the NYPL’s collection in order to commune with it further. She may turn into a gibbering fangirl in face to face meetings with the authors she admires, but interacting with relics of those who have gone before has a centering effect.


Jake Slovis earned his MFA in Writing from Rutgers University, where he now teaches English Composition. He is a second-generation Argentine American and has spent significant time living and writing in Buenos Aires. He currently resides in Brooklyn. More from this author →