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Just Kids

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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 Forty-Second 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 sixties and seventies 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.

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Just Kids - Patti Smith

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I loved Just Kids. It is my top five of favorite books. This is why I was so surprised that the Just Kids Illustrated did not move me or add anything to my overall experience of reading the book. If anything it distracted me from the beauty of the words, the story of their love and commitment to their art and creativity. This is just personal preference and not anything inherently wrong or flawed with the book. For me just being immersed in the feelings, experience and beauty of the original book is enough.Thank you to Edelweiss for allowing me to review this book for an honest opinion.
Patti Smith's memoir about her enduring relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, and their development as artists during the 60's and 70's in New York City. It is as much about their special bond as it is about their work and how they came to be well known.
April 17, 1976. The first time I ever saw Patti Smith was during her memorable appearance on Saturday Night Live. I was 13 and just getting turned on to punk rock — The Ramones, Blondie, Boomtown Rats…and Patti Smith. I remember being fascinated by what I saw but also more than a little puzzled. There was something more there than just music. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was art with a capital A.

As I grew older, I also grew fairly tired of the harsh, dissonant sound of punk. It seemed to me it became an affectation rather than a belief, an excuse rather than a stand. But I never grew tired of Patti Smith and her raspy, atonal vocals and raw, poetic lyrics. After awhile though, she disappeared and I forgot about her and her music/art.

Until I read a review of Just Kids, which I knew I had to get my hands on.

Just Kids is the story of Smith and her lover/friend/soulmate Robert Mapplethorpe, a trailblazer in his own right. Smith’s elegant, lyrical prose begins with her own childhood and eventually blends into her early life in NYC, where she wandered the streets alone, until she met Mapplethorpe.

She describes their early life together as one full of discovery and expression — both creating art as they felt it and experienced it in their daily lives. Objects held great importance for Smith and Mapplethorpe – how objects are made, used, treasured, seen. Smith used words and music to describe, while Mapplethorpe used the camera and both succeeded in making us see things differently.

Smith opens a window into the NYS art scene of the 70s and 80s, populated by such people as Andy Warhol and his entourage. While she writes about living and interacting with people now considered icons, Smith makes them all seem like regular human beings living out their purpose. None of the woke up one day and said “I’m going to create an icon today.” Instead they simply lived their lives and created as they went.

Art was as natural to them as breathing.

Throughout it all, Smith gives a human voice to Mapplethorpe, who continues to be considered one of the most controversial artists ever. He was just a beautiful boy trying to help people look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary.

Smith handles Mapplethorpe’s death from AIDS with gentleness and authentic remorse. She uses a number of his photos of her throughout the book which reveal a stark but elegant beauty. Her account of Mapplethorpe’s last days and the aftermath of his death is heartbreaking.

Just Kids is a beautiful book and well worth the reading.

Mapplethorpe asks Smith at the end, “Did Art get us, Patti?” Maybe it did.
Although I like some of Patti Smith's music, I knew nothing about her personal life. I didn't even know of her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. This book changed that.Early in the book, I was surprised that she remembered horse-drawn ice trucks. She is less than two years older than I, but perhaps that is the difference between her east coast and my west coast. I was also surprised when she said there was “no available birth control” in 1966. But those were only minor examples of how different her life was from mine.This book mentioned lots of people I probably should recognize but don't. It got a bit boring, a bit repetitious for me. There was so much detail I just couldn't care about as much as I should have. Lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, to use a cliché. With all that, what bothered me more than it should have was the author's casual mention of theft when she didn't have enough money, when theft was the convenient way to get what she wanted. The theft didn't bother me as much as the casual attitude toward it.I admit that Robert Mapplethorpe was a good artist, but I only knew him for his controversial work, specifically the controversy and publicity over his photo of a crucifix in a glass of piss. I did find some of the looks into his life interesting, and I Googled some of his art. While he was very talented and some of his photography is sublime, much of it is just too raw and too brutal for me.I listened to the audio edition of this book, and the author did a good job of reading her own work, although her occasional pronunciation caught me off guard: piano became piana, yellow became yella.While this was an interesting look at the author's life, it's not a favorite of mine. Still, I think it will appeal to fans of Patti Smith.
Just Kids is a beautifully written memoir about the friendship between Patti Smith and Robert Maplethorpe who met in New York City in the 1960s. They were friends, lovers (until Maplethorpe figured out that he preferred men) and true soul mates who maintained a special friendship until Maplethorpe's death in the late 1980s.
A book that unexpectedly made me very cheerful. I'm not sure why, but I think it was the frenzy of doing things you love but not quite knowing how to - which adds up to some kind of aimlessness, still enjoying the place you are (and maybe that is why there is no hurry anywhere). In short, I could relate to this story and it tasted like life.
I saw Patti Smith in concert about 10 years ago and found her energy amazing, but haven't really dug into her oeuvre. This section of her life, her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe is interesting and covers an interesting bit of cultural history, but suffers from the things I don't like about memoirs - the dreaminess, the gaps, the name dropping. Despite the annoyances, it was an engaging story.
“Patti, no!”There are so many places throughout this book where Robert affectionately scolds Patti for something or other, and it’s so incredibly endearing.I started Just Kids back in winter, but was too busy to finish it, but not before a coworker told me she’d been reading it too. I recently borrowed her copy to finally reach the end. She also admitted to me that she couldn’t bring herself to finish the last several pages, which, admittedly, are very depressing. Beautiful, but depressing.Smith and Mapplethorpe have an interesting and sometimes arduous journey, but they are truly manna to one another. They took care of each other, oftentimes in ways that no one else could understand.I’ve loved Smith’s music for a long time, but after reading this book, I feel like I’m discovering it all for the first time.
New York in the late 60s and 70s. The story of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe finding each other and tenderly attending to one another's artistic development. This is a beautifully written kaleidoscope of the Chelsea Hotel, Max's Kansas City, CBGB's, and of all of the places, people, and thinking that helped bring Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe to fame. I am glad that I finally got around to reading it, and inspired to dig out the Patti Smith records and listen to them again. Also planning to give Smith's inspirations Verlaine and Rimbaud a first look.
Yet another autobiographical audiobook read by the author that I loved. This is essentially the story of Patti Smith's long relationship and friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, their encouragement and support of one another, and their love, which seems to fall somewhere in the range of romantic, familial and friendly. Highly recommended.
In 1967 Patti Smith moves to New York City to pursue her dream of being an artist, and meets a kindred soul in Robert Mapplethorpe. Together they live "la vie boheme," staying at the famous Chelsea Hotel where they encounter people such as Janis Joplin, Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, Allan Ginsberg, Salvador Dali, and more. Patti evolves from a poet and sketch artist into a rock and roll performer. Although she and Robert are lovers and very much in love with each other, Robert comes to realize that he is fact gay. He explores and expresses his sexuality through photography, and finds success with the help of a wealthy patron who becomes his long-time partner. Robert and Patti each find their own success, and are pulled in different directions. They reconnect in the mid 80's when Robert contracts the HIV virus, and dies from AIDS in 1989.This is a very moving and heartfelt memoir, a chronicle of what seems to be the most significant relationship in Patti Smith's life. Even though both of them find great success in their artistic careers, nearly all of this book focuses on their lean and hungry years in the late 60's and early 70's.
I'm sorry but this is going to be a snarky review. To my mind, the only reason this clunky writing got the National Book Award is that she knew so many people and dropped so many names and was, or at least claimed to be so many times I almost threw the book across the room, Robert Mapplethorpe's muse.Interesting reading, though, despite all that, and the writing did get better by the end.
This book was a great memior but I found it somewhat difficult to get through. It was more just interesting information rather than a compelling plot. But very well written for what it was.
Loved it! Patti Smith is a great writer, and this book was very interesting. Highly recommended.
this was a very powerful story of two friends and artist. the time that patti and robert shared was amazing. it is a story of friendship and art. the struggle to be true to your art and to yourself
A beautifully written, intimate and vivid memoir in which Smith chronicles her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith and Mapplethorpe seem the very definition of "soul mates." It's a poignant love story. Smith also offers great snapshots of the NYC art, literary music scenes of the late 60s and early 70s.
Well written. I enjoyed it but it had its lagging moments. Like most books, more than i need or want to know.
This is a very interesting look into a time and place few had access to. At its core, it is a friendship story between Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, whose paths cross in New York City in the 1960s, and then we follow them for twenty years or so ~ amidst the Warhol hangers-on, the Chelsea Hotel and all of the creative people who made that scene come alive. It is also a candid look at what one sacrifices for art. Interestingly, during most of the story, the art we learn about wasn't the art these two each became famous for. So it's also a glimpse into two people's creative journies towards their ultimate voice, medium, etc. Their struggles and frustrations to create great art were palpable ~ they REALLY believed in it. Although really, the story leaves off before we really get to see their rises to "fame" for her music and his photography (although we see a bit of it). My complaints are that Ms. Smith is a so-so writer, but then, her humbleness and kindness comes across this way and might not if the writing was different. Also, sometimes I did think, egads, what a couple of whiners! But they were incredibly self-involved and I think that was honest. I don't really think this is "National Book Award" material, but for the most part, it was a very entertaining, quick and interesting read. Recommended, especially for artists (of all kinds) or anyone curious about the Warhol era NYC/Chelsea scene.
I like it, [edit: No, actually, I didn't. It was OK, but I did not, in fact, like it] but it didn't rock my socks off the way I hoped it would. Maybe I came to it with the wrong perspective: I was expecting to get a better understanding of Robert Mapplethorpe, but...didn't. For someone who was so intimately tied up with him, Smith doesn't really seem to say much about him that goes beneath the surface. In fact, that's what made it a "like" rather than a "love" -- it never seems to go below the surface. A somewhat dreamy, poetical surface, but surface nonetheless. I really don't care how many times Patti Smith wore black pegged pants and Capezios (or much of any of the other clothes she spent copious time detailing) and honestly, without drugs (which she claims weren't involved) I find the importance of stuffed birds and random pull-toys to be, well, mannered. But, then, she was just a kid, so I supposed that's to be expected.

I think that's the other thing that frustrated me with the book (and which is not a fault of the book, but of the life it details) is that young Patti seemed to spend so much time trying to be an artiste that it seemed to take her forever to actually find her wings as an artist. When she finally did, it was amazing, but reading about the wait was kind of excruciating.
Patti Smith must be the coolest mom on the block. I loved her when I was a weird teenager and I love that she is one of the few idols of my youth that still holds my interest and affection. This book is an incredible jump into Patti's New York City world of the 1970s. Patti, like Zelig, happened to be right in the middle of the action even before she became a celebrity herself. This book is about life and art and love and passion. I loved it. My only question while reading it was that I cannot imagine that the life as it was lived at the time was not darker and more desolate than the glowing campfire images that she paints, but, hey, she is the artist here and she gets to remember her early days any damn well way that she wants to.
I was quite pleasantly surprised by how sweet and touching Patti Smith's memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe is.
I was really enthralled with this book. I haven't read a lot of creative non-fiction, but this captured my interest. Although the story slowed towards the end, I truly fell in love with both Patti and Robert and their story. I fell in love with New York City in the 1960s and '70s. I envied the artists (literary, musicians, and artists) that Patti and Robert brushed shoulders with. The story was a great glimpse into that artistic and cultural time. I really enjoyed reading their story.
a bit disingenuous at times but evocative, compelling, and wise.
A well written book which I nevertheless found increasingly frustrating: Patti Smith's portrayal of her long relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, and their mutual circle of poets, artists and musicians, is deep and tender, but what I really wanted to know about was the Patti Smith Group era, and after lots of tantalising lead-up, this is almost entirely skipped over - so as far as I was concerned, the book was like an LP where all the best music had been swallowed by the hole in the middle.
This is a beautifully written story and a treat to hear Patti tell it herself. I remember the first time I ever heard Horses, and Easter was the soundtrack for freedom as I graduated from high school. This gave me some insight into what "Cowboy Mouth" was all about, too...a play she wrote with Sam Shepard that I was able to catch on a long-ago trip to New York. Hope she keeps writing. I'll keep reading (or listening)...
Surprisingly good even though I'm not a Patti Smith fan (had barely heard of her) and still have trouble thinking of Mapplethorpe's male nude photos as anything but sick pornography. Still it's a very well-written book and good indepth study of some unique characters. Better than 80% of biographies, and that made it worth reading.
Breathtaking.I've been a Patti Smith fan for many, many years, and have loved - and been challenged by - Mapplethorpe's work for nearly as long. This beautifully written memoir is a profoundly moving book about both artists. It is a coming-of-age story, a time capsule, and a remarkable reflection on creativity and interconnectedness. It captures time and place eloquently. Her words and drawings, his artwork, and a few photos by others. It renewed my respect and admiration for its author and the many people she talks about in her straightforward, poetic, sensitive voice. I don't often finish a book thinking "now I can read it again!"
There is much about Just Kids to recommend it: its autobiography of Patti Smith's youth; its biography of the same period in Robert Mapplethorpe's life; its vivid account of the art scene in late-sixties/early-seventies New York; and its portrait of the artist as a young woman, the blossoming of her talent, and the birth of punk rock. But for me, the most remarkable aspect of this memoir was its beautiful and candid portrayal of Smith and Mapplethorpe's relationship, which embodied a kind of love that is rarely captured in literature (or art more generally), because it defies all our customary categories and descriptions. Experiencing such love is rare enough in itself; but rendering it in words as Smith does here is an astounding achievement, and one that everyone should have the pleasure to read for themselves.
I had a hard time at first getting into this book. Although Patti Smith is of my generation (born Dec. 30,1946) I don't remember knowing about her or listening to her music. This is probably due to the fact that she was at first (late 60s, early 70s) localized in the New York City of the Hotel Chelsea (also St. Mark's Poetry Project, the back room at Max's, etc.). In the late seventies & eighties, she became a primary figure in the punk rock scene. I was never into punk and, in fact, lost interest in rock music in general in the early 70s. I pretty much stop at Hendrix, Joplin, John Lennon & Yoko Ono. I couldn't handle the volume and cacophony. It seemed to me oppressive rather than seductive or liberating. I moved on to jazz. So, divergent paths. Somewhere midway through the book, I became more engrossed in the story of these 2 fringe, then iconic artists: their intense relationship, their multiple talents. Patti Smith seems to have done (& to do) something in every genre: visual arts (her drawings), literature (poetry, memoir, she's now working on a novel), performance art (theater-she did a play with Sam Shepard, early spoken word-poetry with music) & music. Robert Mapplethorpe too was various in his art, always exploring, always pushing the edge. He settled into photography, for which he became famous & notorious (due to his explicit photos & male nudes). It is the intensity of both their friendship & their passion for their art that finally won me over, irrespective of how I might or might not relate to the music or photographs themselves. Patti Smith's poetry on the page reads well, in fact. She was influenced early on by the French Symbolists, particularly Rimbaud & even made a trip to his hometown of Charleville & to his grave in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. I couldn't help musing about the death toll of those years from drugs & then AIDs. In the late 80s, Robert Mapplethorpe was one among many artists, writers, actors etc. who died in the early years of that epidemic. The drug regimen that has since made AIDS a chronic rather than a fatal disease for many arrived too late for them. I can't help but think that this fact must have sometimes haunted Patti Smith as she wrote about her loved ones lost.