Patti Smith – Just KidsPosted: June 15, 2011
I just finished reading Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids. It covers her life form the late ’60s through to the mid ’70s. Mostly set in New York, the book details her relationship with the young artist, Robert Mapplethorpe.
Smith’s voice is earnest but always full of passion. The book begins with details of her teenage pregnancy – she drops out of college and gives the child up for adoption. Within a year she moves to New York where she meets Mapplethorpe. He has moved to New York to escape his stiff Catholic upbringing; he and Smith fall in love and together they dream of becoming artists.
The book documents:
– Their heady days living at the Chelsea Hotel;
– Mapplethorpe’s growing realisation that he is gay and the repercussions for his relationship with Smith;
– Mapplethorpe’s transformation from an installation artist to a photographer;
– and Smith’s development from a poet to a punk rock singer.
Robert Mapplethorpe. “Bob Love.” 1979
I approached the book from the perspective of a Patti Smith fan and a lover of early ’70s New York and hence found it a thoroughly fascinating insight into the period and the lives of the struggling young artists. I was particularly impressed by their self-belief and determination. For much of the narrative it was difficult to reconcile the famous Smith and famous Mapplethorpe with the two youths who had to often share a toasted sandwich at their favourite diner because they didn’t have the money to buy one each.
So as you can tell, I highly recommend this book and not just for fans of Smith or Mapplethorpe or New York. If you are at all interested in art or love or the human condition then read it. A further attraction is the collection of photographs and poetry you will find intertwined with the narrative. And if you haven’t heard Patti Smith’s first record, Horses, get it as soon as you can and listen to it.