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)
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.
Really? All these years later, she seems to have no sense of how shallow they all were. It's one thing to write about an earlier self with kindness; it's another to repeat the self-involved "brilliances" as if they really were brilliant. Someone seems to have been living in a sycophantic cocoon a little too long. And jesus, someone needed an editor to tell her that it's just as nice to write "I walked quietly" as "I strolled in an ambiance of stillness" or some such purply dreck. It's just more of the same Boomer self-indulgence and utter inability to see the larger world that has sunk most of these rock-n-roll memoirs.
At first I wanted to kind of hug her and tell her, Really, even still, you're way more into him than he ever was into you. Like it was a little sad for her to be controlling this story, given his death, and trying to frame it in favorable terms for her. But eventually it was more pathetic than sad. And it just wouldn't end!
Famous people's books really suffer from their ability to refuse to bow to editors.
This was a sad book. I had expected a Rock & Roll memoir from the queen of 1970s New York alt rock scene. I had read the book description, but still. This was the story of Patti’s life with Robert Mapplethorpe as they grew up together, young Bohemians, in New York. While they cross paths with many of the icons of the day, Patti’s music career is a footnote. I have a new appreciation for Mapplethorpe. Art can be disagreeable to me and yet I can understand the artist and appreciate the creativity. Patti’s portrait of him is so tender and her love for him so sincere, it’s hard not to feel for both of them as they struggled to eat as friends and neighbors in the Hotel Chelsea committed suicide, overdosed and succumbed to disease. It’s easy to imagine rock stars and artists crafting personas. Patti and Robert were the real deal and their story very moving. I’d like to mark the topic as music, but this was the memoir of artists one of whose medium happened to be music in popular culture.
The narration was very drone like and tedious to listen too. I won't be finishing the book. I think if you grew up in some States and that era (I'm Canada) and new a lot about art and literature it would be interesting. A lot of name dropping and I didn't know most of them.
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.
This was one of the most touching and emotionally gripping memoirs I've heard on recorded books. It relates the journey of two sensitive, intelligent, artistic kids, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, from self-imposed bohemian poverty to the heights of artistic achievement and fame. Throughout, the two maintained an abiding friendship and a deep love for one another.Their mutual trust and support through hardship, illness, shifting sexual preferences, friends and fashions, is an inspiration and a deeply compelling "read."
Patti Smith captures the New York musical, literary and artistic scenes of the late '60s and '70s with intimate, atmospheric detail. I loved hearing stories about Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso, Dylan, Warhol, Sam Shepard and other denizens of the Village, the Lower East Side and the Chelsea Hotel, told by someone who was at once a wide-eyed observer and a mover and shaker in her own right. This is an engrossing and moving book, read with touching simplicity in Patti's heavy South Jersey accent. Above all, it is a love story about two odd, striving kids who achieved great fame and fortune. Sadly, this book is primarily an homage to Robert, who died of aids in 1989. He had lots more art to make and lost many years of a possibly fulfilled and a happy life.
Anyone interested in art or music in particular, and the NY bohemian, beat, glam, gay and transgener worlds in particular, that existed with the scene, will be fascinated. This book and its protagonists are fascinating and, if you don't fall in love with them, you might at least come away with respect and admiration for how they invented their lives and outsized personalities. The author, though, stay focused and tells the story so intimately that you feel you know her and are hearing the book over a cup of hot tea in a NYC apartment during those days of thrilling discoveries, brilliant artworks, and a restless, new freedom of behavior that, in some, ending tragically.
This is a book to read, listen to, and cherish.
Smith's portrayal of her friends and their value to her is amazing.
She writes with honesty and heartfelt emotions that no reader
could close the last page and not be moved beyond the truth
revealed in her writing . The name "Robert" speaks volumes.
I won't forget Patti or Robert due to the emotions I felt in her
incredible descriptive writing.
It took me a little bit to settle into Patti's voice but once I did, it captured and engaged me. I loved this story, the love and friendship between Patti and Robert, between their love of art and the journey that defined both their art and their friendship.
I haven't read or seen the print edition, but I have to believe that hearing this tale from Patti herself is hard to beat. Her voice is a critical part of her, and you could feel the emotions in the way she spoke - she lived this story, she knows it. She could mimic Robert's voice and others in their entourage. And the emotion in those final poems - wow. I felt like I had a private audience with Patti.
This is a must. I've told about 5 friends that they have to get the audible version.
Patti Smith is such an interesting and admirable person, independent, intelligent and very much her own person but the memoir turned into a litany of "people who became someone" in the second section and, as such, dated it. Her life would have been so much more interesting as the center rather than appended to others - at least it felt that way - that I wish she had told her non-Robert Mapplethorpe story rather than constantly revolving about his art/obsession/confusion. Hers is a lot more interesting.
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