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)
It took me some time to get used to her speaking- sort of monotone. But it ended up being so perfect for this story. Even happy moments, I only pictured barely there smiles. But it wasn't a sad story. It was one of love, loyalty, and friendship. I rarely write reviews. I can't say enough about this book. It's wonderful. Touching.
This is my first patti smith book, but not the last. Her words and voice are so beautiful. Being a fan of her music inspired listening to this book, but I feel like I didn't know anything about her till now. This book shares and creates such an amazing image of her life you can just picture it all. Just finished and just cried.
Patti Smith beautifully reminisces about her creative evolution as well as the evolution of her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. Both helped lay the foundation of New York culture in the arts and music of New York in the 70's and 80's. Two heroes of mine. They should be everyone's heroes if you care for arts and humanity.
Interesting relationship story
I liked it because it was real ... not that it was just about real people, real events, etc., but that the whole thing came across as authentic. It tells the one story about one person I didn't know (Patti), and one person I didn't really think highly off (Robert).
Patti is Patti. I found her narration to be monotonous, but I think she was the only one to tell the story.
No, not really.
I grew up in the 60's and 70' in New York, Patti Smith was a staple of my music scene. This book puts you right on her shoulder as she guides you thru her world and the paths she took to become one of New York's greatest talents. Her style and expression gets you right inside her thoughts and dreams; on the streets, inside her jobs, the places she lived and the people she loved.
I will listen to this again and again to feel the depth of love and wonder at the creative force that gripped these two. Paris voce is perfect, haunting, from her soul. Simply wonderful.
As an admirer more than a fan of Patti Smith and Mapplethorpe, I was continuously struck by the chance crossings, first of their lives, and then with others over years that linked so many heroes of music, art and literature. Just Kids is a beautiful book made more touching by her voice, retracing a charmed journey that seems too improbable to be true. It is a powerful love letter as well as a stark history of what NYC took and gave in ways that, for good and for bad, it no longer does.
I would recommend this book to anyone that lived in the '60s & '70s & wants a different perspective of those years. Anyone that loves a good story.
Patti Smith was a great narrator. I felt like I knew & understood Robert & Patti in a small way.
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