Who or what constitutes an artist? Now, there's a a topic for hours of passionate discussion amongst yourselves. Picasso said that “every child is an artist;” Maslow talked about the need for self-actualisation as being the most elusive and enduring human needs; and we've all heard the claim that creativity is our birthright. Patti Smith without question believes herself an "artist" as well as a "Punk Rock's poet laureate, a singer, songwriter, actress and playwright."
I don't deny Patti Smith's raw creativity, or her commitment, but I feel more than any other reason for her *fame* she was lucky enough to meet Robert Mapplethorpe and benefit from the slipstream of his artistic vision and drive. Through him she gained entrance into the world that accepted her type of creativity and propelled her into the limelight she so craved. She herself always seemed to be this underground personality associated with the punk scene and those *stars,* a free-spirit looking for her niche through performance experimentation -- and sometimes it felt very amateurish and uncontrolled. Other than "Because the Night" and an eloquent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech on behalf of Lou Reed, I wasn't too aware of Smith's specific works, though I was aware of her icon status.
The book is well written and at times truly poetic, this upped my impression of Smith's talents. It was interesting to read about the turbulent period of time in NYC, and the luminaries that gave color to the decadent and creative period, more so for me at least, than the scavenging through thrift stores and living off the kindness of others. Unfortunately, I didn't find the magic others claim to have found; I didn't see a beautiful love story or an artist's struggle, the flicker of youth captured. I had my own young love; my own beautiful Polaroid moments of youth I can satisfactorily reflect on. For some reason, I experienced in Smith's memoir an egotistical justification for an irresponsible life-style that excluded any responsibility or consequences. Smith came across as arrogant and entitled, a girl with no more talent than anyone else -- just more drive, more luck, more connections, more bravado, and less self consciousness and fewer standards. On the positive side, her love for Mapplethorpe was genuine and unwavering through their journey to the *in-crowd.* The devotion was admirable, and I enjoyed this candid part of her story.
I just kept wondering to myself..."So?! Haven't most of us had times when we've felt compelled to say the hell with what we have to do, what needs to be done, and just go full-throttle Bohemian?!" How many of us would like to call ourselves an artist following our muse? I felt the book sprang from the sincere heart of a devoted friend and an interesting, avant-garde woman. I think this is a great read for those interested in the NYC scene during this period of time...you won't be disappointed. This wasn't my favorite bio, and I don't see the overwhelming appeal it has had for readers (and to deserve the National Book Award), but like art, it's mostly a matter of taste.
The narration was very drone like and tedious to listen too. I won't be finishing the book. I think if you grew up in some States and that era (I'm Canada) and new a lot about art and literature it would be interesting. A lot of name dropping and I didn't know most of them.
Patti Smith is such an interesting and admirable person, independent, intelligent and very much her own person but the memoir turned into a litany of "people who became someone" in the second section and, as such, dated it. Her life would have been so much more interesting as the center rather than appended to others - at least it felt that way - that I wish she had told her non-Robert Mapplethorpe story rather than constantly revolving about his art/obsession/confusion. Hers is a lot more interesting.
Anybody but her
I found this account narcissistic, self-serving and solipsistic. I too lived through this era, and while I enjoyed the references to the events and people of the 60's and 70's I couldn't wait for this book to end. Her performance was great for insomniacs who want to be lulled to sleep, but it made for an incredibly long listen. I can't imagine how this was awarded the National Book Award. Maybe the committee was impressed by all her references to the great artists and her never ending name dropping of the great performers of this era.
I really wanted to like this book and enjoyed it for awhile, but by the end I was like, OK Robert, die, so that we can turn this thing off.
work as an artist and art restorer. read at least 48 books a year, because I can listen while I work.
Ordinarily, I do not like to comment or review a book unless I found it to be exceptional or something I truly enjoyed. This book had a riveting story, and I like these people as artists, but had to get over Patti Smith's reading of it. She has a way of speaking that is flat and monotonous. That being said, I thought this was worthwhile
I couldn't decide whether to buy the book or listen to the audio version. When I saw Patti Smith read her book, herself, I opted for the Audible edition. I'm very glad I did. This is a powerful and inspiring work. Smith puts a lot of emotion into her reading, which would come as no surprise to anyone interested to read the book in the first place. Patti Smith brings the same intensity to her reading and writing as she does to her music and poetry.
Any artist who believes they are held back by family connections, wealth or education, should read this book even if you've never heard of Patti Smith or Robert Mapplethorpe. Not everything they had to do to survive in 1970s New York was pretty, but they did it with style and courage, and they achieved what they planned to achieve. This book is a candid and beautiful memoir.
I thought I knew so much about these two, and this era. It was interesting to bring more clarity to the times they lived in. But the greater gift here is Patti Smiths' clear, poetic telling of this deep intimate, artistic relationship. It's wonderful to hear it in her voice. It's just beautiful.
I'd heard many kudos for this book and am adding mine to the long list. An eloquent, hypnotic and insightful read into a unique relationship between artists who knew their gifts long before they were discovered. A loving tribute by Ms. Smith to her lover, friend and co-conspirator, Mr. Mapplethorpe. Her voice, while calm and somewhat droll, enhances the poetry of her words.
Patti Smith pours out the story of her life with humility, peace and quiet resolve. She starts with the shame and humiliation of getting pregnant in her teens and giving the baby up for adoption in the early 60s. With hardly a dime to her name she moves to New York City where she meets and enters into a loving relationship with the famous photographer, Robert Maplethorpe. Together they supported one another in all their artful endeavors even after he left her for the love of a man. Eventually they moved to the Chelsea Hotel where they associated with well-known poets and authors and artists and musicians of the late 60s and early 70s. Patti's career took off, she married and had two children, and Robert continued his love of photography. Patti took care of him when he contracted AIDS and eventually died. Their love for one another was so extraordinary, so caring for one another, so mutually supportive, so non-judgmental, so void of jealousy and mistrust. I am in awe of Patti's talents as a singer and as a poet and artist, but most of all I admire her humility and honesty. I've always been fascinated with Maplethorpe's work and have a book of some of his photography, mostly of women, and Patti rounds out the line-up of well-known women in the last four photos. She was and is more beautiful than she knows. A few days ago I read where she visited the Occupy Wall Street camp to donate some of her books. While walking among the protesters she came upon an old woman to whom she gave her socks and boots.
I love the honesty and mispronunciations of Patti's reading. Here she is -a brilliant, insightful intellect with the Jersey vernacular keeping her human. The book begins slow, almost ho-hum like light snowflakes that swirl around until it becomes ground cover, then the whole snowball effect takes place and by the end of the book you'll feel like you just rode an avalanche. It's an artistic, culturally penetrating, honest and most importantly- heartfelt love story.