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)
I wanted to like this book. In particular, I was hoping to learn more about the music scene in downtown New York in the early 70s. I was disappointed on both counts. Think of this book instead, as a hagiography of Robert Mapplethorpe. This is a world viewed through rose-colored glasses, one largely sanitized of the gritty reality that surely existed. Full of name dropping and hero worship (if I have to hear of Arthur Rimbaud one more time.....), apparently all was done in the name of art. Unfortunately, this work achieves little either in terms of art or as an honest account of an interesting time.
Nothing here other than the ramblings of a 60s hippie - we have all love and lost - we have all had to find ourselves - as much as I wanted to like it, there was nothing special here. Ultimately the story and Patti's telling of it shut me down.
The beginning of the book wasn't too bad. As the book progressed,the interesting moments were far and few between. After the book, I felt that I did not know Mapplethorpe any more than I had at the beginning. Yes, Patti Smith loved him. Got that. Long and drawn out. I must be in the minority, however, as this book won the National Book Award. That, in itself prompted me to purchase this. Would I recommend this? No.-- I would recommend the new Steve Jobs autobiography though! Now, that was interesting!!
The flat affect was hard to listen to. I went in thinking I would like to listen to Patti Smith narrating her own book, but I had to turn it off, and turn on her music. love the book, however.
If you're someone already fascinated with Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, and/or the late 60's-early 70's counterculture that they inhabited, then you may respond differently to this book.
However, as someone only somewhat interested/familiar with these elements before listening, this book failed to draw me in. The story was not well paced, nor continuous enough for me, and abundant minute details made for tedious listening. It totally makes sense that Patti Smith would read this, her own memoir, but I found her reading voice monotonous, and occasionally annoying as she would mess up her own phrasing or pronunciation here and there.
I wanted to know more about her, her life, her experiences and how she made sense of them. The passages where this happened were engaging, but not consistent. And she sometimes had a turn of phrase or paragraph that was breathtaking. But waiting for those just didn't justify the overall experience for me.
Admittedly, I'm not someone who often listens to memoirs or biography... leaning towards the narrative- I love good stories. So this fell short for me.
Someone who reads it in the print form.
Unfortunately, the monotone of the voice and delivery of some pronunciations made the story slow and depressing. However, I could hear some creative and expressive descriptions and use of interesting terms (almost like in the background) that would bring the story alive if spoken in one's own voice style or that of a more expressive reader. I have a hunch that Patti spoke purposefully in the voice and accent to present the real-life flavor of the protagonist's life, but it was too distracting, and made it difficult for me to appreciate her good phrasings.
Again, I may have appreciated this book more if I had read it myself instead of listened to it. Many in my book group liked it.
but I could not put it down.
I had no favorite characters. It was gloomy at first and then became sad.
I guess it was best the Patty read it herself because she conveyed exactly what she meant.
I simply could not wait for it to end but I did not want to abandon it either.
Patti Smith may sing well, can write poetry and a memoir, but she is a terrible reader. Her mispronunciation of words is annoying and lack of affect ruins the story.
Well, thank you Patti Smith!!! I do think that we might have met way back then. Yes, this is a true love story and a true love story of the time. What a time that was! Thank you again for telling it. I will never forget that time. It did deeply impact those of us that moved to NYC (and actually did live in a loft.... without the benefit of a grocery store, pharmacy,or heat )
Thanks, I did get much subsistence from Max's, that is for sure. That was my first time to eat Buffalo Wings. They were good. Wow, I loved this book and that it must have come from your journals.
Really great story
Drawlings.... the word is in the audio thousands of times. Does she really mean drawlings or is she speaking of drawings? VERY annoying to me.
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