Patti Smith's memoir of her life in NYC during the late 1960s, early 1970s, and her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe.
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..... A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame. (--from the dust jacket of the hard cover edition)
I really didn't know a lot about Patti Smith and was never much of a punk rock fan, so I had a few qualms about starting this one. But I knew it had won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2010, and my husband read it a couple of years ago and was impressed enough to recommend. So I put it on my TBR stack and finally managed to get to it this year.
And I'm happy to say it turned out to be an extremely accessible and interesting book, and really brought back memories and vibes from "back in the day" (even though I didn't live in New York at that time). Smith's writing style is effortlessly poetic and yet very down-to-earth. And she's an impressive memoirist, with what seems like perfect recall of her early years in NYC, and brings those times back to vivid life — the excitement and also the pain and confusion. A very moving and enjoyable read.
I was superstitious. Today was a Monday; I was born on Monday. It was a good day to arrive in New York City. No one expected me. Everything awaited me. (pg.25)
Long-haired boys scatting around in striped bell-bottoms and used military jackets flanked with girls wrapped in tie-dye. There were flyers papering the streets announcing the coming of Paul Butterfield and Country Joe and the Fish. "White Rabbit" was blaring from the open doors of the Electric Circus. The air was heavy with unstable chemicals, mold, and the earthy stench of hashish. The fat of candles burned, great tears of wax spilling onto the sidewalk.
I can't say I fit in, but I felt safe. (pg.30)
I felt, watching Jim Morrison, that I could do that. I can't say why I thought this. I had nothing in my experience to make me think that would ever be possible, yet I harbored that conceit. (pg. 59)
Yet you could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening. It had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. Now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods. Perhaps it was an awareness of time passing, the last summer of the decade. Sometimes I just wanted to raise my hands and stop. But stop what? Maybe just growing up. (pg.104)
|Original hard cover edition|
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