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)
Patti Smith as both author and narrator delivers depth, truth, insight, a most impressive study of the life and times of two true artists. I was captivated by Patti Smith's interview with Terry Gross on the "Fresh Air" podcast and was so pleased to find this available on Audible. This compelling narrative exceeded my high expectations. Authors are rarely the best narrators but such is not the case here. I cannot now imagine this being read by other than Ms. Smith. It is as if you are following her around, looking over her shoulder as her life unfolds before her. This is just SO good. I am very pleased with the story, the narration and the high quality of the audio production. Highly recommended.
I was a freshman at the Corcoran in 1978, Patti Smith was cool. Ten years later, I was a widow working as a lab technician in an AIDS lab, and a year later Robert Maplethorpe died. By that time, I was shell-shocked by death, homophobia and the terror of becoming single in a world of AIDS. It took me over a decade to pay off the enormous medical bills my husband left me and finding my way back to painting and writing.
At 2:30am this morning, New Year's Day 2012, in bed with my iPod, I downloaded this book and entered a time machine. Everything I assumed I knew about these two people via their mythology was wrong.
This book had a profound effect on me and yet, I wonder how it will be received by those outside the solar systems of art and AIDS in that timeframe, hopefully with an open mind. These two people whose lives in the rearview mirror are legendary. It may come as a surprise that most people in those days were so so naive and innocent. We were not drowning in the world wide web of data... growing up Catholic and confused by a world outside our limited view, all the while living on the edge...
I love this book and it will find a permanent home on my iPod. A reminder of a place and time that formed many who are now graying and even more confused.
An astounding tribute to Smith, Mapplethorpe, their astonishing life journey and their work. I lived it, loved it, now I had the chance to read about it. And I'll do so again.
I thought I knew so much about these two, and this era. It was interesting to bring more clarity to the times they lived in. But the greater gift here is Patti Smiths' clear, poetic telling of this deep intimate, artistic relationship. It's wonderful to hear it in her voice. It's just beautiful.
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.
Incredibly touching, wonderfully written, beautiful imagery. I loved this book. I had a little bit of a hard time for the first few sentences to get used to the poetic language. But once you listen to Patti's voice and see what she saw... It is a beautiful book, and I really want to share the audio version with others. I could not have loved this book as much without this narration.
Patti Smith sheds a non-judgemental light on an era of New York City when the art and music scenes seemed to be exploding. She crosses the paths of many luminaries (Harry Smith, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol) while slowly finding her own way and becoming the admired singer, poet and artist many adore. This book is very humble, it is not about name-dropping, she is not trying to make her or her friends seem like rock/art royalty. This book is the tale of her often beautiful and enduring friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe and their respective urges to create.
I couldn't decide whether to buy the book or listen to the audio version. When I saw Patti Smith read her book, herself, I opted for the Audible edition. I'm very glad I did. This is a powerful and inspiring work. Smith puts a lot of emotion into her reading, which would come as no surprise to anyone interested to read the book in the first place. Patti Smith brings the same intensity to her reading and writing as she does to her music and poetry.
Any artist who believes they are held back by family connections, wealth or education, should read this book even if you've never heard of Patti Smith or Robert Mapplethorpe. Not everything they had to do to survive in 1970s New York was pretty, but they did it with style and courage, and they achieved what they planned to achieve. This book is a candid and beautiful memoir.
I love the honesty and mispronunciations of Patti's reading. Here she is -a brilliant, insightful intellect with the Jersey vernacular keeping her human. The book begins slow, almost ho-hum like light snowflakes that swirl around until it becomes ground cover, then the whole snowball effect takes place and by the end of the book you'll feel like you just rode an avalanche. It's an artistic, culturally penetrating, honest and most importantly- heartfelt love story.
This book is part personal memoir, part first-person-omniscient narrative. I loved everything about this piece, including Smith' New Jersey styled pronunciations. I hope she writes more.
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