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Editorial Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

“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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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sheer joy!

What made the experience of listening to Just Kids the most enjoyable?

This story occurred primarily in the 1960s and early 1970s, in downtown NYC, where creative artistic souls gathered and supported each other in beautiful ways. I loved hearing about that, and I feel sad because there will probably never be a scene like that again.

What did you like best about this story?

I loved hearing Patti Smith narrating it... I also loved to hear, not only about her deep connection with Robert Mapplethorpe, but also about all of the other artists who she supported and was supported by.

Which character – as performed by Patti Smith – was your favorite?

Patti Smith!

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were so many... the moments that moved me the most is when one artist would encourage and or help another artist to find themselves. Sometimes this encouragement was purely verbal, and other times these generous souls provided much more.

Any additional comments?

just a really beautiful book, about a beautiful connection, during a beautiful time.. it was tinged with sadness for me, as knew what was coming by the 1980s...

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • Portland, OR
  • 07-16-16

Over rated

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

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.

What do you think your next listen will be?

House of Eight Orchids<br/>

Would you be willing to try another one of Patti Smith’s performances?

No

What else would you have wanted to know about Patti Smith’s life?

Nothing

Any additional comments?

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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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disappointed

struggled to finish. monotone narrator. she name dropped over and over again but bored with her life.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The most beautiful story of friendship

This is the best audiobook I've ever listened to and one of the most beautiful stories of friendship I've had the pleasure of enjoying. Inspiring, sweet and breathtaking. Thank you Patti and Robert for sharing your story with the world.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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life-changing

Hearing Patti read out loud her own words, the process of becoming an artist, was life-changing for me as an artist. A must-hear. Thank you, Patti!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jan
  • San Francisco, CA, United States
  • 06-05-16

I fell in love with Patti Smith!

I wasn't familiar with Patti Smith's music and I read The M Train before I read Just Kids; and I downloaded this just to have a copy of it to listen to later.

She is a kindred spirit - especially after reading M Train - where I took notes while reading her ideas and about trips she took for reasons that made sense to no one else (story of my life). So many eclectic interests!

Smith is a great writer - I don't know about fiction - but she should definitely keep writing about what she thinks about and generally, just commenting on the life around her.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Poignant, Moving

A beautiful story written with great love and poetic language. Just Kids captures the youthful exploration of life and art in the relationship between Patti Smith and Robert Mappelthorpe.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great insights into a period of history which created a lot of change

Incredible voice. Lovely story of living without judgement. Being born in 1966 - I enjoyed the new insights to all those things that were interesting to me as a teenager ... Like Woodstock, Bob Dylan, Punk Rock, Mixed Media Art ... And New York City.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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just kids

great enveloping read. draws the reader in such to caring deeply for Robert and Patty. a wonderful friendship. we all should be so lucky.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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best audio book i've heard. Patti Smith is a force

the most amazing audio book i have ever heard. Patti Smith is amazing and her poetic words cannot be matched.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful