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)
Former English and drama major, bookaholic.
I just finished reading Just Kids and I have been touched. The story is fluid and full and the way that Patti Smith looks back on her life, her values changing over time, her art but mostly the chronicle of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe is inspiring. What comes across is a wonderful poignant love story of a deep, deep friendship. You also get a completely different view of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe than what the press would have us believe. This is the part that touched and surprised me. I still gravitate almost instantly to fiction but this was a wonderful ride.
YES. I liked the story and would most likely pick up something that I missed the first time.
When Robert saved Patti from a possible rape.
Robert's death but I was really impressed that Patti didn't exploit it. She could have turned the end into a sobfest, instead she treated his dying with respect.
I am too young (barely) to have lived their lives but it would have been interesting!
Even if Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe are peripheral or unknown to you, this history of the life and times of these two artists will overpower you with its richness, gentleness and authenticity. Smith is a true poet-storyeller and her resonant voice, her gift of language, her honesty, even her accent create a powerful remembrance. This is a perfect book to read by ear. It is one of the best I have ever heard.
avoiding road rage one book at a time...
Before I picked up this book, here is what I knew about Patti Smith & Robert Mapplethorpe: she was an poet/one-hit wonder and he was a subversive photographer whose exhibition was banned from our local art museum. I wasn't until I heard Patti's interview with Howard Stern, did I learn the two had a connection. Based on that interview, my first real introduction to Patti, I thought her book would be interesting, but I did not know what to expect.
Here is what I got: a beautiful, (at times) haunting, poignant, dripping with ornate detail love story that grew from a chance meeting into a life-long connection. Most people don't get an opportunity to have the kind of relationship that Patti & Robert had. With this book, I gained a front-row seat to the play of their lives, which was packed with chance encounters and quickly formed friendships with some of the most ground-breaking writers, poets, artists & musicians... and the real story; the story of their devotion to one another, which will touch me for the rest of my life.
It took me a few chapters to get used to Patti's style. I am a non-fiction reader who like the facts without pomp & circumstance. Her detailed, poetic styling was a bit overwhelming, but I grew to love it because through her words, I could see. In these 300 pages I witnessed luck, bravery, love, careless abandon, determination, sadness, triumph and pain.
This memoir was fascinating, and very artistically done. I really knew almost nothing about Patti Smith beyond a basic knowledge of her music and what I did know of Mapplethorpe turned out to be stereotypical and a very small slice of who he actually was. I was frequently amazed at the 'small town' atmosphere that seemed to have existed in New York around the Chelsea Hotel during this time period. Just going through her daily life, Smith casually meets and becomes acquainted with enormous musical names like Hendrix and Joplin, writers like Tennessee Williams and Sam Shephard (who I had no idea she had dated), legends like Salvador Dali, and of course the whole Andy Warhol superstar bunch as they were sort of teetering back into obscurity. But Smith never sounds like a name-dropper (though she may have if I was not aware that she would eventually become a rock star herself). It's just an immensely engrossing picture of this slice in history, and the detail Smith puts into the early years of her life with Robert and their continuing friendship captures the complexity that gets lost in snapshot descriptions of the famous. It also provides a portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe to challenge the image that he acquired during the 80s when he became a symbol of shocking art and an example conservatives liked to point to when arguing to de-fund the arts.
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.
Definitely.I read the printed book first and enjoyed it but Patti Smith reading her work makes it all the more magical. I love her funny pronunciation of words, and her style is so unique. She seems so REAL, not what you'd expect from someone of her stature.
Patti of course, but also Robert. She writes with such honesty, love, and caring. I was moved by her ability to find the best in just about all people and also by how much she loved her family. She's an incredible artist and human, a sensitive, kind soul. Lucky is the person who can call her a friend.
This entire book moved me.Her relationship with Robert weathered many storms and their bond was never to be broken. I will keep this on my Ipod and have already listened to it several times. I love how she reads some of her poems. This is by far the best memoir I've ever had the chance to read/listen to. I could go on and on about this one.
This was an unbelievably and unabashedly upfront look into the life of a multi talented artist who put everything on the line to do art without seeking recognition. I walk away inspired by all of the great poet and musicians who inspired her and I see her original body of work as not derivative of any source. this is the ultimate goal of any artist. To be inspired and lifted up by those who came before and to add to the infinite catalog what the human heart is capable of.
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