Just Kids: Book summary and reviews of Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids

By Patti Smith

Just Kids

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Book Summary

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.

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Awards, 2010

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Smith's elegant eulogy helps to explain the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe's life and work." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. With appearances by Janis Joplin, Allen Ginsberg, Sam Shepard, Johnny Winter, and many other intriguing and influential figures, Smith covers a remarkable swath of cultural and personal history in this beautifully crafted, vivid, and indelible look back." - Booklist

"[T]enderly evocative…It's possible to come away from Just Kids with an intact image of the title's childlike kindred spirits who listened to Tim Hardin's delicate love songs, wondered if they could afford the extra 10 cents for chocolate milk and treasured each geode, tambourine or silver skull they shared, never wanting what they couldn't have or unduly caring what the future might bring. If it sometimes sounds like a fairy tale, it also conveys a heartbreakingly clear idea of why Ms. Smith is entitled to tell one. So she enshrines her early days with Mapplethorpe this way: 'We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until, exhausted, we fell into bed.' They sound like Hansel and Gretel, living in a state of shared delight, blissfully unaware of what awaited on the path ahead." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

[B]eautifully written…More than a 1970s bohemian rhapsody, Just Kids is one of the best books ever written on becoming an artist—not the race for online celebrity and corporate sponsorship that often passes for artistic success these days, but the far more powerful, often difficult journey toward the ecstatic experience of capturing radiance of imagination on a page or stage or photographic paper." - Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post

"Remarkable, evocative... Just Kids is more than just a gift to [Smith's] ex-lover; it’s a gift to everyone who has ever been touched by their art, and to everyone who’s ever been in love. Like the best of Smith's music and Mapplethorpe's art, this book is haunting and unforgettable." - NPR Boston

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by ME Hayes
Like reading someone's diary
The very personal account of Patti Smith's relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe is revealed. She recounts their life in NYC in the 60's with many of the avant garde players, some of which were yet to be discovered. They were bohemian artists who lived a somewhat risky life style, as they evolved and successfully worked their craft with complete dedication to each other. It is real.

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More Information

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary mergence of poetry and rock. Her seminal album Horses, bearing Robert Mapplethorpe's renowned photograph, has been hailed as one of the top 100 albums of all time. She has recorded twelve albums.

Smith had her first exhibit of drawings at the Gotham Book Mart in 1973 and has been represented by the Robert Miller Gallery since 1978. In 2002, the Andy Warhol Museum launched Strange Messenger, a retrospective exhibit of her drawings, silk screens, and photographs. Her drawings, photographs, and installations were shown in a comprehensive exhibit in 2008 at the Fondation Cartier Pour l'Art Contemporain in Paris.

Her books include Witt, Babel, Woolgathering, The Coral Sea, and Auguries of Innocence.

In 2005, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Smith the prestigious title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honor awarded to an artist by the French Republic. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Smith married the late Fred Sonic Smith in Detroit in 1980. They had a son, Jackson, and a daughter, Jesse. Smith resides in New York City.

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