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.
I love listening to Patti Smiths fascinating life told by Patti herself. Her life was so interesting, like the epitome of an artist and rock and roller's life. love it.
If you are interested in the work or Robert Mapplethorpe, this provides a lot of insight into his work and how it emerged. Likewise for the career of Patti Smith and the unlikely path she took to be a singer.
Guttural, low-key, slow.
No, it's a bit slow in parts, so I was perfectly happy to break it up into pieces. The best parts are the ones in which she talks about Mapplethorpe and her relationship with him.
The prose is purple in parts, and this can come off as a somewhat irritating affectation in parts. But worth it to hear the story of Mapplethorpe and Smith straight from someone who lived it. The emotion in her voice in certain key parts is quite moving.
I work full time in Financial Services, teach part time, listen to music (a lot) and love Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction.
I would recommend it to anybody who cares about art, the artistic process or the artistic community in NY in the 1970's.
This is essentially a memoir of Patti's life during a specific time period, but it is so much more than just a historical description of her life. Instead it is story of young girl who needs to be an artist, and her process of discovery in becoming an artist. That alone would be fascinating but it occurs during a very vibrant time in NYC. The descriptions of Argosy Book Store, The Chelsea Hotel and other legendary landmarks read like a travel book. The people that populate her journey make this a snapshot of the era. Fascinating.
Her resiliency, dedication to her calling and single mindedness of purpose make Patti an inspirational character. But this is not a story of fame, or the famous people she meets. She comes across as a humble, truth seeking person who needs to create an understand the world of ideas.
Not sure a movie would need to be made. But I do have suggestion. Go back and listen to those first 3 records she put out in 1970's again. You will hear them with greater depth in terms of poetry and context. I would also suggest listening to her new materiel which shows that her searching is far from over.
A big component of the "punk"movement was that everybody could be a musician or artist, that it is within us and we should not be discouraged by lack of talent. All of us can create and realize a vision of art that is within us. This book captures that concept beautifully. It will inspire you to pursue your own muse not matter what it is. I thought it was the best audible book I have purchased yet. Humble and inspirational.
Patti Smith pulled me into the world she shared and created with Robert Mapplethorpe.
Simply told, the story grew.
By the time she finished, I was trying to control my sobs, pedaling away on the bicycle at the gym, glad for 10 minutes of silence left in my workout to absorb the experience.
Teach only love, for that is what you are.
I am in the same age group as the author yet have lived a very different life. This opened up my experience to the rock music scene and the art world that I had mostly ignored while having babies and dealing with survival.
There were so many . . . moments of the great love between the author and Robert Mapplethorpe were touching and inspiring and although they parted ways as a couple, their love for each other stayed strong and solid. This book is a tribute to that love and Patti made it a beautiful one.
I loved both Patti and Robert equally for the truth in their work and staying true to it while supporting each other in the best type of friendship imaginable.
The moment Patti and Robert had to say goodbye when he was dying of AIDS was particularly moving, but there were many others.
I loved experiencing this time of my life in a whole new way. Patti was acquainted with so many famous musicians and artists of the era and helped me feel like I had met them as well.
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.
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