In 1989, just before famously controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe died too young of AIDS complications at age 42, he made his very best friend promise to tell their story. Patti Smith took many years to do it, but the incredible result, Just Kids has proven well worth the wait. Winner of the National Book Award, Smith's delicate tribute to her relationship with Mapplethorpe and their love affair with New York City is read by Patti Smith herself.
No one else could narrate this, and no one else could have written this. After Smith ditched college to move to New York in 1967, a chance encounter in which Mapplethorpe saved her from an expectant date by pretending to be her angry boyfriend touched off one of the most historic artistic partnerships the city had ever seen. Embarking at first as lovers, they clung to their art and each other through poverty and misfortune in the late-60s, moving steadily closer to the center of cultural influence in the 70s. Mapplethorpe struggled with coming out of the closet and Smith struggled to find an artistic medium that suited her best. Together, they swam through everything that made New York great and terrible, each eventually emerging as a pioneering independent spirit that to this day knows no equal.
Smith's voice as both the writer and the narrator is simply unimpeachable. Reflective and soft-spoken, she humbly attempts to capture two decades of this inspirational partnership. Listeners can tell she is thinking through every image she has written here, pausing occasionally to let it sink in for herself or to let the dialogue get caught in her throat. By turns haunted and poetic, by turns silly and sarcastic, Smith trips along these enchanting bits of history in a way that is utterly endearing. It's not at all like inviting somebody famous to entertain you with gossip at dinner. Real respect must be paid. Listeners will be in awe of the fact that Patti Smith comes across as a totally normal person who stumbled into an extraordinary life. Even if you've already passed totally engrossed through the hard copy of this book, to hear it from Patti Smith's own mouth is simply an otherworldly experience. This audiobook is an essential companion to the text that will not only bear repeated listening, but will beg for it. Megan Volpert
National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2010
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 42nd 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 60s and 70s 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.
©2010 Patti Smith (P)2011 Patti Smith
“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)
“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)
“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)
Only if the friend has a particular interest in the subject matter. I respect the open and honest account, but it often came across to me as a prolonged name-dropping session.
I can totally understand why she reads this work herself -- it's highly personal and it would probably feel wrong to have someone else read it... but she should have. Her reading is, as others have mentioned, oddly flat and dry, and I found her pronunciation of some words distracting at best and annoying at worst. (A good example is "drawing" which is used a lot, and her pronunciation of the word "birthday" is... very strange.)
This book is not without value, but it seems over-rated to me. I choose it because of the glowing reviews, but found it to be a fairly ordinary account.
Haven't even finished my listen, but the buttery voice and candid style with which Patti Smith lures me in, it's my guilty pleasure...
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
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.
Simply stunning imagery.
It was impossible to not be touched by Smith's honesty and simplicity.
The account of Robert Mapplethorpe's passing was extraordinary in its simplicity - measured and graceful and entirely heart breaking.
I loved this so much I have bought the hard copy.
Patti Smith's performance matches her poetic telling of her very personal story. I never appreciated her more than I do now having just finished Just Kids.
This is my first five-star audiobook. The relationship between Patti and Robert is more moving than anything that I ever read even in fictions. Beautiful and precious. The way Smith writes and narrates is also so honest. I am so glad that she read this herself. I feel lucky to have encountered this book. I will listen to this again.
audio book junkie
What a treat to get to take a trip back in time through the eyes of a young Patti Smith in a New York that will never be quite the same. She paints such a vivid picture of young, wild, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants youth. And you wouldn't believe the famous people whose path she crossed. What a great story. The narration is a bit mono-toned but you know what? It doesn't matter when the substance is so wonderful. I loved this book, I'd recommend it to anyone.
I loved having Patti read this to us...she is tender and raw at the same time. Artists lead a particular kind of life and she lets us in on the early years of hers and Roberts. Her writing is not about the sensational ...but about all the things that made & make their art speak to us. An honest & beautifully written and read book.
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