National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2010
Patti Smith’s evocative, honest and moving coming-of-age story of her extraordinary relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe
A prelude to fame, Just Kids recounts the friendship of two young artists--Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe – whose passion fueled their lifelong pursuit of art.
In 1967, a chance meeting between two young people led to a romance and a lifelong friendship that would carry each to international success never dreamed of. The backdrop is Brooklyn, Chelsea Hotel, Max’s Kansas City, Scribner’s Bookstore, Coney Island, Warhol’s Factory and the whole city resplendent. Among their friends, literary lights, musicians and artists such as Harry Smith, Bobby Neuwirth, Allen Ginsberg, Sandy Daley, Sam Shepherd, William Burroughs, etc. It was a heightened time politically and culturally; the art and music worlds exploding and colliding. In the midst of all this two kids made a pact to always care for one another. Scrappy, romantic, committed to making art, they prodded and provided each other with faith and confidence during the hungry years--the days of cous-cous and lettuce soup.
Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. Beautifully written, this is a profound portrait of two young artists, often hungry, sated only by art and experience. And an unforgettable portrait of New York, her rich and poor, hustlers and hellions, those who made it and those whose memory lingers near.
©2010 Patti Smith (P)2011 Patti Smith
This audio book had me spellbound. I was transported - lost in the world of Patti and Robert, New York City, 1960's and was oblivious to everyone and everything around me. I hung off every word, and 'couldn't put it down'. If you admire the work of Robert Mapplethorpe and/or Patti Smith you will love this book like I did. But I think even if you have never heard of either of them, you will love it. It stands alone as a love story, a life story, beautifully crafted. That Patti Smith herself has narrated the book makes the audio book even better than reading it visually would be. Her voice adds to the magic. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
I've been a fan of Patti Smith's music for years, but initially hesitated to listen to this book because I thought it might be mainly about the relationship between two people, one of whom died tragically young, and therefore a bit depressing. I'm so glad I did listen to it, because it's very much a portrait of a time and place (the late 1960s and the 1970s in New York). It is also about the relationship between Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe, which is handled in a delicate and not at all maudlin way. I gained a lot of insight into all of the participants and their artistic milieu, making me curious to know more about some aspects of the latter, even though I'd already read a fair bit about the topic. The book is read very well by Patti Smith in her distinctive way, which somehow manages to combine directness and deceptive simplicity with emotional complexity and surprising ideas, just like her music. This is a well-crafted and sensitive book that impresses me with Patti Smith's writing.
Having Patti Smith narrate it
It re-connected me to my path as an Artist. It made me long for creativity and self-expression in a way that is poetic and meaningful. One of the most inspiring stories I've read/listened to for living a unique and self-directed life.
Patti is an amazing storyteller with a unique voice, as unique as her life story and the characters that are a part of it. She is a wise and intuitive woman and her tale is deep and poetic.
Philosophy, nature, arts.
After listening to the audio version read by Patti Smith herself, it's easy to understand why she is such a remarkable poet. The book is based mostly on Smith's own diary entries, which she has reinterpreted as a narrative.
Smith indeed gravitated to the right place at a right time when entering the artistic hub of early 70's Manhattan art scene and especially Chelsea Hotel.
You might call her lucky to have stumbled upon all the art and music greats mentioned also in this book. Still, the road was rocky indeed and the way she instinctively finds her place during this book is a lesson in itself and a great coming-of-age story.
Smith tells about even the most mundane incidents with an admirable knack at storytelling. Her poetic way of suffering the hardships with dignity and savouring the beauty in the small joys of life makes for a great listen.
"Engaging narration from Patti"
As well as finding her story very involving, it was frequently made very moving through Smith's narration - this audiobook is pretty much made by being read by its author. Especially worth a listen if you're already into her/her music, but the study of the interesting relationship(s) that the Biog revolves around is worth the listen in itself.
"You'll feel like you're in the Chelsea Hotel"
.....if that means anything to you then you'll probably enjoy this book. Patti narrates it herself and it took a while for me to get used to her tone; which is fascinating in terms of her commitment to the business of becoming an artist and the discipline required to keep creating when you have no money and nobody cares about your art but also a little strange at first because while she seems a very loyal and warm person there is no sense, at all, of her having much of a sense of humour. But over the course of the book I really warmed to her. It's a bit like falling into conversation with an eccentric looking stranger at a party and gradually overcoming a sense that she takes herself a bit seriously as the realisation dawns that she's a thoroughly decent person who's really lived a life.
Her relationship with Mapplethorpe and his rise to prominence is also told with a real eye for detail and a lot of tenderness but what was a surprise was the extensive list of characters she became friends with during the years when she was scraping a living and trying to find out what type of artist she was going to be. These include her being chatted up by Ginsberg (who thinks she's a boy) and becoming friends with Burroughs.
There is a certain amount of portentous pronouncing about poetry and the duty of the artist to their art but she's earned the right to explain how making art works for her in any way she likes and in the end it simply felt like another expression of her character and part of the distinct flavour of this book.
"Wonderful and poetic"
Great to have the voice of the poet to reach you through time and space. It was a treat! The atmosphere of NY at the time, the struggle to be an artist, the friendships and the longing. Brilliant.
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