Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review "Just Kids" by Patti Smith

Every once in awhile someone who projects the image of being a regular person, has an opportunity to enter into the narcissistic, pretentious and closed world of popular art, music and words. In the early seventies that person was Patti Smith. A self-described wallflower, Smith gives us a gift: a sneak peak into a world inaccessible to the outsider.

"Just Kids" is partly a portrait of wannabe artists (she and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe) living in the playground that is NYC, except this time the artists make it and even more rare, one of them lives to tell about it. Smith's life story is like candy to hopeful artists across the country, making it easy to buy what she's selling.

"There are no shortcuts," Smith reminds Robert Mapplethorpe early on in their acquaintance.  The artist's journey is a long one. Smith affirms this as she invites the reader to join along as she recollects her journey navigating the personalities of New York City's underground art and music scene while living in the Chelsea Hotel.

Ultimately, Smith accomplishes her goal to write a book memorializing her artistic accomplice, friend and once upon a time lover, Robert Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in the late eighties. The book is a tribute to friendship, true love and loyalty, but mostly, it serves as a nuanced account of popular culture in New York City during the late sixties and early seventies.

Thought of the Day:  If you are a lover of memoirs that document popular culture, you will like this book. I am giving her music another chance. You would too after reading her book.

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