Just Kids

Just Kids

by Patti Smith

Gail Reid (01/14/13): I knew very little about Robert Mapplethorpe, the photographer who died in the 80's and even less about the rock musician/poet Patti Smith. When our book group decided to read Just Kids, I went along for the ride.

In Just Kids, I found that I was intrigued with Patti and Robert's relationship that began when both were lost teens pursuing art in late sixties New York. First friends, then lovers, then life-long friends, they were single-minded in their appreciation of drawing, painting, collage making and supporting each other in their pursuit of artistic self-expression. Mapplethorpe struggled with his sexuality, his strict Catholic upbringing, and parents who did not understand him or his lifestyle. Patti Smith embraced the artist milieu, living with Robert in a tiny room at the Chelsea hotel. They often sacrificed their food money for art supplies and went hungry.

Although they drifted apart, each became famous in the art and music world. When Mapplethorpe was dying of AIDS, he asked Patti to write the story of when they were "just kids". There is a lot of material about artists and musicians in the sixties and seventies, some of whom went on to become well-known. But the story that appealed to me was one of friendship that seemed to transcend all else. This is a beautifully written memoir, and unfamiliar as I was with Patti Smith and hard rock, it is not a surprise to find out that she is also a poet.
Rating: ****

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