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)
It's lovely hearing her words in her voice. I'm fascinated by that time in NY. a beautiful, unconventional love story. I loved it!
I love memoirs, especially if creative people, and this did not disappoint. I felt the forward was a little slow, but once she got into the main narrative I was hooked. I listened to the whole thing in a weekend.
Any review critical of Patti use of the term drawling doesn't get it. The tone of her reading is authentic. The name dropping which seems to be offensive to some is not that at all. It is the telling of a story of a world with a cast of characters who have since become household names. Mentioning their names is sparse storytelling because these characters are already defined in our popular culture consciousness.
This story confirms my perception of Patti Smith as a rare rock star who can turn a bar into the just-right context for the expression of high art ideals.
What a treat to hear this magical story in Patti Smith's own voice! The closeness that she & Robert shared can only be described as that of soul mates. From the very beginning of their relationship, to the end, Patti let's us into their world of love & art with such openness that I now feel that they are beloved friends of mine. I've just finished listening & I don't want to say good bye just yet.
I loved it! I was impressed with her story and narration. I could visualize everything she spoke about like I was a fly on the wall.
A love story to New York City and the village, a love story to the fascinating time when the 1960's turned into the 1970's, a love story of Rock and Roll/punk, a love story of two remarkable humans - Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Incredibly moving and wise, a story about the artists and poets and musicians of 1960's/1960's New York - without a single hint of superiority or gaudiness. A beautiful love story overall.
Finished reading book in the Kindle App. Like M Train Patti Smith breaths the pain and the joy of life into her words.
Parts of Just Kids made me homesick for my youth. A good read. And, Patti, Robert would like what you wrote.
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