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)
What a great, powerful story. At times it's playful and sweet, and other times it's soul wrenching. It's been a long time since I enjoyed a story this much. Thank you, Patti.
Such a lovely and heartbreaking story, and I'm really glad that I listened to it in Patti's voice. Her idiosyncratic pronunciation of certain words, a few song lyrics actually sung, her love and emotion all made it a really great experience.
Didn't know much about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe going into this and came out with much respect and appreciation for them. Smith is a sensitive and colorful story teller. And having her read the book gives so much to the voice of both her - with her southern accent and Roberts cute way of reading her. Was Engrossing and well written - would definitely recommend it.
This audiobook is an unexpected gem. I had not previously engaged with Patti's work but gave this book a try after a friend recommended it. Patti's rhythm and storytelling took me on a journey to NYC during a culturally rich and significant time.
Oh yeah, it's a love story that also describes the art/poetry/music scene at the time, what's not to like?
Not one in particular, it was a series of threads in life that fit together beautifully
The end of the book made it all hit home
I had this in my library for some time and I was hemming and hawing about reading it and I now have a newfound appreciation for Patti and Robert. I wasn't so much into Patti prior but I loved Robert's work and this book explodes their partnership and Patti's poetry, which is the core of her essence. Wow, Patti, no one could not have written a better account than what you did and your vocal presence is incredible. You are now one of my favorite writer/poet/musicians!!!
Took me back.
Patti....loved her evolution as an individual.
All of it.
When they would draw together...so personal.
Over the weeks I keep coming back to moments in this book that were so personal and lovely and about their growing together and apart....also took me back to my early days as an artist.
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 focus mainly on History, Endurance Sports and Science/Speculative Fiction books.
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.
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