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Just Kids Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 2, 2010
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“[Just Kids] reminds us that innocence, utopian ideals, beauty and revolt are enlightenment’s guiding stars in the human journey. Her book recalls, without blinking or faltering, a collective memory — one that guides us through the present and into the future.” (Michael Stipe, Time magazine)
“Reading rocker Smith’s account of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, it’s hard not to believe in fate. How else to explain the chance encounter that threw them together, allowing both to blossom? Quirky and spellbinding.” (People, Top 10 Books of 2010)
“The most enchantingly evocative memoir of funky-but-chic New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s that any alumnus has yet committed to print.” (Janet Maslin's top 10 books of 2010, New York Times)
“Composed of incandescent sentences more revelatory than anything from Patti Smith’s poems or songs, her romantic memoir also reveals what blunt narrative instruments the earlier career bios of her and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe have been.” (Village Voice, Best Books of 2010 Round-Up)
“Smith’s beautifully crafted love letter to her friend Robert Mapplethorpe functions as a memento mori of a relationship fueled by passion for art and writing. Her elegant eulogy lays bare the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe’s life and work.” (Publishers Weekly, Top Ten Books of the Year)
“Poetically written and vividly remembered. [Smith] reminded me of the idealism of art.” (Matthew Weiner, creator of MAD MEN, in New York magazine)
“A spellbinding portrait of bohemian New York in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.” (New York Times Book Review, Paperback Row)
“One of the best things I’ve ever read in my life.” (Don Imus)
“Sometimes there is justice in the world. That was my first thought when I heard that Patti Smith had won the National Book Award this fall for her glorious memoir, Just Kids.” (Maureen Corrigan's favorite books of 2010, NPR's Fresh Air)
“[JUST KIDS] offers a revealing account of the fears and insecurities harbored by even the most incendiary artists, as well as their capacity for reverence and tenderness.” (USA Today)
From the Back Cover
It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.
Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max's Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.
Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.
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The point is, this book was on my radar because I'd heard great things about the book, not because I knew who anybody was. What a tale! I'm not even sure something like this could ever happen again. It was the late '60's early '70's (my favorite time period musically, incidentally) and Patti was a literal starving artist on the streets of New York. No job, no direction, no place to live. A creative being wanting to create but not knowing how it should manifest.
She meets Robert Maplethorpe and they embark on a lifelong friendship/love affair. They lived in the time and place of Jimi, Janis, and Andy Warhol. Just Kids, literally starving. It was a great adventure.
Patti was lucky enough to have a couple breaks musically, and Robert not long behind her with his art. I can't say I'm a fan of either of their work. I looked at Robert's art after reading the book and thought no wonder he struggled.
I thought a lot about making a living, and what artists have to do to survive. These tortured people who literally must create, have to get day jobs at bookstores. Barely scraping enough money together to share a hot dog with a friend. It's sad. Behind every Jimi there are thousands of other Jimis.
Anyway, I was engrossed in this tale of friendship and life in the summer of love and beyond. The audio was read by Patti and that itself was an experience. Beautifully written passages spoken in a strong New Jersey accent. Drawing was Drawling. Piano was piana. Laughing was laughin'. Sunday was Sundee. It was a little weird at first, but ultimately gave an intimacy to the story. Her story. I couldn't put it down, and I sobbed at the end.
This would be a great audio for people who don't normally do audio because if you wander off it's easy to find your way back in. Loved it!
”It was the summer Coltrane died. The summer of “Crystal Ship.” Flower children raised their empty arms and China exploded the H-bomb. Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. AM radio played “Ode to Billie Joe.” There were riots in Newark, Milwaukee, and Detroit. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, the summer of love. And in this shifting, inhospitable atmosphere, a chance encounter change the course of my life.”
It was that summer when Patti Smith met Robert Mapplethorpe. Just Kids is a love story of these two young people who, against all odds, meet, fall in love, and cling to that love long after they’ve chosen other partners, other ways of life, and love. It’s a love story of the city where they fell in love, and perhaps even a bit of a love story to the art and poetry and music that was created in the course of their love story.
They combined their meager possessions, but money was problematic, they barely made enough money for food – and frequently went without. Extras were out of reach. Books they had already owned were their prized possessions, as was their music limited to those albums they’d brought into this relationship. And still, they were able to enjoy some concerts just by virtue of being in the right place at the right time, or knowing the right person.
”Yet you could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening. It had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. Now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods.”
There are a very few years that they were not in touch, Smith’s focused on her music career, her marriage to Fred “Sonic” Smith, and Mapplethorpe focused on his art, his partner. Time passes, children come along, and when Smith is expecting a second child, they re-establish communication.
”We were as Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world. There were temptations and witches and demons we never dreamed of and there was splendor we only partially imagined. No one could speak for these two young people nor tell with any truth of their days and nights together. Only Robert and I could tell it. Our story, as he called it. And having gone, he left the task for me to tell it to you.”
I knew very little about Patti Smith, I knew who she was, is, and that I’ve heard some of her songs, knew she was a musician… beyond that, nothing. So, when this book first came out, and my brother sent me a signed copy of this, along with a few other books, and I vaguely recall seeing it and wondering why he sent it to me. And then, years later, also sent me a signed copy of M Train. I was beginning to feel a little guilty.
I loved this. There’s a bit of that raw energy and the grittiness of living in their early days together, the descriptions of the city, especially at night. The Romeo and Julietness of it all. Beautiful prose.
Their story reminded me of one of my favourite poems, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s ”Sonnet XXX – Love Is Not All”
”Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.”
-- Ali Binazir, M.D., M.Phil., Happiness Engineer and author of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman's Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible, and Should I Go to Medical School?: An Irreverent Guide to the Pros and Cons of a Career in Medicine
Most recent customer reviews
A true artist who, unlike almost every single musician I looked up to, has never let me...Read more