Book Review: Just Kids by Patti Smith


Title: Just Kids
Author: Patti Smith
Published: January 19, 2010
Publisher: Ecco
Number of Pages: 278

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.

Read the first and last line of this book at firstandlastlines (in Turkish. Please do contribute English versions if you have the book).

I didn't know what to expect from this book. I love Patti Smith and her poetry, but I didn't know how her writing would translate to writing a memoir. I ended up being amazed by it all. She seems to remember all the details, and what details they are! Seeing Patti Smith become Patti Smith with all her struggles, up and down moments was very exciting. 

It was full of art and music and literature, which I must admit I had some struggles with. Music and literature parts was okay, but I consider myself quite illiterate when it comes to art, unfortunately. `I looked up all the photographs and paintings she mentioned as I was reading, and that added a lot to the vision of NYC in the 70's that I had in my head.

Apart from getting way too giddy at the mentions of names like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, I very much enjoyed Patti Smith's and Robert Mapplethorpe's relationship. If she weren't so sincere and honest in her writing, I'd think she was making it all up. They accepted each other for who they were, and were supporting one another through the good and the bad. This book made Patti Smith more real and more human in my eyes, not that she wasn't before, if that makes any sense. I still think she's an amazing artist, and I truly believe she deserves the attention and recognition she got and still gets.

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