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'd heard many kudos for this book and am adding mine to the long list. An eloquent, hypnotic and insightful read into a unique relationship between artists who knew their gifts long before they were discovered. A loving tribute by Ms. Smith to her lover, friend and co-conspirator, Mr. Mapplethorpe. Her voice, while calm and somewhat droll, enhances the poetry of her words.
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.
Much too much repetition of information and there is NO "L" in the word DRAW or DRAWING!!! Had to stop about halfway through. Maybe a different narrator could present Patti's story in a more pleasing-to-the-ear manner,
A vivid remembrance of the people, places and events in some of Patti Smith's life. An honest gratitude runs beneath the telling. Her love for Robert. Her admiration for people like Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso.
This is not Patti looking at Patti. It's Patti looking at the people and events in her life and sharing them with us. Self indulgent? Not in the least. I sometimes had to remind myself that Patti was and is a great artist in her own right.
Hard to put down.
"We went our separate ways, but within walking distance of one another."
Reading Patti Smith's Just Kids is a fascinating purgatory between the last great voices of the 60s and the next great voices of the 70s. The amount of people her and Robert interacted with is simply awe inspiring. Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, just to name three that immediately came to mind.
Smith takes great care laying out her youth within the pages of Just Kids. Her treatment of Robert is very loving and I really saw their connection. Their love for one another transcended relationship goals and become almost religious in tone. Even as their circles began to drift apart (he in the more affluent society, she with the grungier rock culture), they still found connections to each other.
Patti Smith's reading of the novel, however, is unusually dispassionate considering her connection to it. I'm not sure if that is on purpose or if it's just her natural way of speaking. Some of these sections are incredibly emotional, and I would not expect her even tone with it. That being said, I grinned every time she imitated Robert whining "Patti!" It seems like here was one place that her affection broke the surface.
Whether you are a fan of Patti Smith, love the 60s/70s, or just want to catch one of the most revolutionary times in American Art and Music, Just Kids is a phenomenal book to pick up.
I've listened to a bunch, and this is in the top three.
Exceedingly well written. Very well defined characters. Very good flow. The story will galvanize you, and you will have a completely different understanding of the lasting horror of childhood abuse, and of sexuality.
Cried more than once.
Put it on your list.
I like books that have interesting characters and easy to follow plots. For example, Cormoran Strike, is a great character for me.
No, I would not recommend this book to a friend because I found the reader, Patti Smith, very boring and the story she told, very boring.
House of Eight Orchids
I don't understand the rave reviews and awards this book has received. I found Patti Smith to be a terrible reader. If she had only put some of her passion into the reading, it might have been better. I didn't like how she didn't connect her own success with what happened to her and Robert. I was really disappointed in this book. I kept waiting for something interesting to be revealed.
You just need to read this. Truly, truly a poignant reflection of the intertwined lives of two people that represent the tumult and freedom and beauty and sorrow of a generation.
Patti Smith saying any word that ended in "aw" correctly. It's great that this book is in her own voice, but the way she mispronounced words drove me NUTS.
No, but I probably wont listen to any other books written or narrated by Patti Smith.
Hated it. Ruined the book for me.
My assessment of this book might not be the most fair, but the story and her narration did not connect with me.
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