Published by Ecco on January 19th 2010
Genres: Biography & Autobiography
Source: Library Book
In Just Kids, Patti Smith's first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work--from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.
I am so far behind on review writing, but I’m trying to play catch up!
The Quirky, Questionable & Clever Book Club, which is run through Libbie Mill Library, read this back in April and it made for a great discussion. I’m not a huge Patti Smith fan, in fact I didn’t know she had written the song ‘Because the Night’, although I love the 10,000 Maniac cover of it. It turns out she’s written several songs I like.
Smith is kind of an amazing person. She just up and moved to NYC in her early 20’s, at a time where it was possible to sleep in the park and before the real estate market even on the tiniest NYC hovel was a billion dollars. Some of my favorite parts of the book was seeing the city in the 60’s and the 70’s, the Chelsea Hotel, working at The Strand bookstore (which I would think was a dream come true, but which Smith just saw as a job). I love NYC, but I’m aware that I missed it’s truly great age.
The focus of the book is Smith’s enduring friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. From friends, to lovers, then back to friends, through their struggles to make a living from their art, drugs, his homosexuality and occasional prostitution, his struggle with and eventual death from complications of AIDS, and their huge successes and failures. Smith is unflinchingly honest about her past, warts and all.
The writing is very smooth, and it did surprise me by how much I ended up liking it. It’s easy to see all the talent Smith has, and the humbleness and quietness that seemed to attract some of the craziest and talented people to her inner circle. Her long relationship with a married Sam Shepherd, the people she met on a daily basis.. it’s amazing.
But for a book that I was expecting to be all about her and Robert, there’s a lot of just Patty. And then there’s huge gaps. One minute their living together, then suddenly he’s dying. I just would have wished for more information of the missing years.
I probably would have loved this book if I’d been a life long fan, or if I was a wee bit older and knew more of the movers and shakers of NYC in the 60’s and 70’s. But despite the disconnection I may have had with that era, it’s still a good read. Smith oozes talent, but she’s a very practical, laid back kind of her person. The words flow like honey, which makes sense because there’s no form of art that she hasn’t dabbled in, she’l like a very chilled Queen Bee.
I’m giving Just Kids a Midnight Book Rating of: