Hi, weekenders! A friend of mine and I were talking about books we’d read that really grabbed us and both of us agreed that rocker/poet/writer/Renaissance woman Patti Smith‘s memoir Just Kids that captures her younger years with fellow Renaissance man Robert Mapplethorpe was a hell of a read. I’m so glad she wrote this, because if offered a view of not only her inner workings, but Mapplethorpe’s, as well, and I think I, at least, came away with a new understanding of his work through Smith’s eyes.
Smith traces her life in NYC during the 1960s and 1970s, flavored by her own dreams and evolving relationship with Mapplethorpe. This was a time in which artists and musicians moved freely through each other’s circles, performed at clubs like CBGB‘s, and built networks across genres and disciplines. How much has changed in 30-40 years. This story, my friend and I theorized, could not happen today, because of the corporatization of the music industry and the advent of the Internet. The close-knit world of art, music, literature, and poetry that colored NYC during those years, and the historical backdrop of the 60s and 70s allowed a revolution in expression and captured a moment that both echoed its surroundings and shifted the currents of artistic discourse.
Smith’s book — winner of the National Book Prize — is a poetic rendering of those years, and a deeply moving and close-to-the-bone reminiscence of life, love, and the humanity within us all. It’s an homage, an epic poem, and an exquisitely rendered memoir. If you decide to embark on this journey with Smith, I don’t think you’ll be unmoved.