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)
Five stars for the beautiful engaging book itself. An extra blue star for Patti Smith's wonderful reading. Cannot recommend this highly enough.
Maybe. Anyone with interest in the late 60s and early 70s in NYC will enjoy this book as well as any fans of Patti or Bob Maplethorpe. Otherwise, not for everyone.
Yes. Most characters are seen through Patti's subjective experience and often not through the lens of broader culture, even for the mega-famous icons like Bob Dylan that seem to frequently come around.
Yes. See above.
Rock and Roll
Patti Smith - this is her story.
To hear her own words in that inimitable voice - awesome. I had already read the book, but listening to Patti read it was even better.
Yes. From now on, when I go to a museum to see the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, I'll also think about the man and his life. His dedication to his art and true belief in self comes shining through this book.
Perhaps the film - Pollack, and what different men these two were, but do intersect in their belief in art.
The word "drawlings" when she referred to their "drawings". I'd like to know why she used that words.
I think it was their struggle in the beginning to make ends meet. They never gave up.
Just different.words are always nice to view and go back to to compare different scenes.
Until listening to Patti Smith, I preferred the professional readers. I felt like I got to know her as a child, young adult and mature woman as I listened to her.
I loved having Patti read this to us...she is tender and raw at the same time. Artists lead a particular kind of life and she lets us in on the early years of hers and Roberts. Her writing is not about the sensational ...but about all the things that made & make their art speak to us. An honest & beautifully written and read book.
While Smith is very monotone in her delivery, she is nonetheless true to her emotions. Her delivery is beautiful though sometimes stark.
I purchased this because the relationship between Smith and Mapplethorpe had always intrigued me....I found out that it is a true love story.
I have heard Smith's "pop" music as well as some of her poetry readings/music....this is a very personal memoir.
No...Smith is a bit stark to take all of this in on one listen, but I couldn't wait to get back to it.
If you are a fan of either Mapplethorpe or Smith, this book will fascinate you....if you are not a fan of either, you 're in for a great love story....
While it was a nice thought that she wrote this and memorialized her friend, the book was a series of daily details of their lives. Smith's delivery was slow and i was only able to listen by turning the speed up so that she would sound like she was speaking at a normal pace. Suggestion: when performing an audio book reading lay off the weed.
There were, as others have stated, sections of the book where Smith became emotional while speaking of her friend, theses were the redeeming sections of the book.
This is one of the best books I've listened to so far.
I loved pretty much all of it... listening to Patti Smith read it was special for me.
Yep, I cried a few times.
I loved this book. I appreciate Patti's candor and writing skills.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.