Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids.jpg patti-smith.png

Patti Smith's "Horses" was such a clarion call in the punk era, but I am too old and tired now to remember why. What made me read the book were the two kids on the cover smiling sweetly at me, too thin to cast a shadow. Everything in Just Kids reminds you with lyrical intensity and inspired willpower and wild dreaming:

Art is holy. Art is love. Art can set us free.

"I was asleep when he died," Smith writes at the start. "I had called the hospital to say one more good night, but he had gone under, beneath layers of morphine. I held the receiver and listened to his labored breathing through the phone, knowing I would never hear him again."

Between Mapplethorpe's dying breaths, Smith takes flight into a story of origins. Within moments we are back in her childhood as she details her love of prayer, the death of her girlhood friend. At 19 she becomes pregnant and is forced to give her baby away, swearing an oath to become a great artist in memory of her child. In 1967 The Fates give Smith and Mapplethorpe a chance meeting in Manhattan shortly after Smith hops off a bus, clutching a copy of Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations. They penny-pinch for food and sleep with lice on their pillows. Smith cries so much in Mapplethorpe's company he affectionately nicknames her "Soakie".

They quickly became each other's muse, breaking up only when Mapplethorpe comes to terms with his homosexuality. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear--- they remained closer than best friends.

Smith recalls being present as Kris Kristofferson played "Me and Bobby McGee" to Janis Joplin for the first time. This is 60/70's bohemian New York, and she gives us walk-ons from William Burroughs, Sam Shepard, Jimi Hendrix and mentor Allen Ginsberg (who initially assumes that she is a beautiful boy).

It would take a Grinchy heart not to be moved by the last 10 pages, as Mapplethorpe lies dying from AIDS-related disease.

This elegiac memoir is a primer which illuminates the realization that the deepest relationships need not have perfect resolutions.

-Jane H. @King Library


At the age of twenty, Patti Smith fled her New Jersey hometown and took the bus into New York City, hoping to find friends to stay with. One of the first people she sees is a sleeping boy, "pale and slim with masses of dark curls, lying bare-chested with strands of beads around his neck." A chance re-encounter weeks later with "Bob" Mapplethorpe leads to the passionate partnership - artistic, creative, spiritual and sexual - that spans the tumultuous 60's and 70's as they make art, poetry and music together. Smith's memoir, "Just Kids", promised to Mapplethorpe before his death in 1989, bursts with insight and vigor. Her well written story is filled with funny and poignant vignettes of two visionaries struggling to get by on sporadic minimum wage jobs and 'a little help from their friends' while remaining true to each other and their art.

Submitted by Christine @ Central

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This page contains a single entry by Jacki published on September 7, 2010 1:40 PM.

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