Patti Smith, Just Kids

I loved this memoir from Patti Smith of her early years in New York with Robert Mapplethorpe. Some of the subject matter won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the title doesn’t reveal that this is a book for adults, and it is gritty in places. Smith reveals that all Mapplethorpe’s art wasn’t her cup of tea either, and yet she supported him as an artist, sometimes literally. They were completely immersed in the artist/writer/rock/poet/underground cultural of the late 60’s/early 70’s in New York. It’s a cavalcade of celebrities, some of whom before they were really celebrities, some after. She describes the lifelong mutual devotion between she and Mapplethorpe. She also tells of finding out her about to be boyfriend, “Slim,” with whom she’d been taking late night strolls, was really an already successful playwright named Sam Shepard. She tells of her time with Allen Lanier, of Blue Oyster Cult, songwriting, her adoration of William Burroughs, and Arthur Rimbaud, being at the ground zero of The Chelsea Hotel in the days of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, of where she was when Jim Morrison died, of trips to Paris on a shoestring and of her beginnings as a writer, artist, muse, and chanteuse. It is poignant and sentimental without being sappy, it is romanticized with very hard edges, it is a lesson in prose. I adored this book.

“Freedom is a waterfall,
is pacing the linoleum until dawn,
is the right to write the wrong words,
and I done plenty of that…”ย ย ย ย  from Early Work, April, 1971