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Summary

National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2010

Patti Smith’s evocative, honest and moving coming-of-age story of her extraordinary relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe

A prelude to fame, Just Kids recounts the friendship of two young artists--Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe – whose passion fueled their lifelong pursuit of art.

In 1967, a chance meeting between two young people led to a romance and a lifelong friendship that would carry each to international success never dreamed of. The backdrop is Brooklyn, Chelsea Hotel, Max’s Kansas City, Scribner’s Bookstore, Coney Island, Warhol’s Factory and the whole city resplendent. Among their friends, literary lights, musicians and artists such as Harry Smith, Bobby Neuwirth, Allen Ginsberg, Sandy Daley, Sam Shepherd, William Burroughs, etc. It was a heightened time politically and culturally; the art and music worlds exploding and colliding. In the midst of all this two kids made a pact to always care for one another. Scrappy, romantic, committed to making art, they prodded and provided each other with faith and confidence during the hungry years--the days of cous-cous and lettuce soup.

Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. Beautifully written, this is a profound portrait of two young artists, often hungry, sated only by art and experience. And an unforgettable portrait of New York, her rich and poor, hustlers and hellions, those who made it and those whose memory lingers near.

©2010 Patti Smith (P)2011 Patti Smith

What members say

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Wow

As good as it gets, funny, sad, insightful, tragic, rocking and told with honest warmth that you hear rising from the words and the authors own reading.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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The most spectacular experience

What made the experience of listening to Just Kids the most enjoyable?

The narration and the beauty of the language, harmonising fully with the story, made this my most enjoyable audiobook experience for me to date. I was not into Patti Smith nor very fascinated by the age or Chelsea Hotel before but needed to start going through her work afterwards. And felt an extreme urge to quit my job, sit on a floor and create, and just listen to this over and over (I just barely manage to refrain though)

What was one of the most memorable moments of Just Kids?

The story in itself is not really what makes this book. All the moments where Patti Smith lets us peak below her skin, the vulnerable moments, the moments of sheer joy, the uncertainties of life- those are why this book is such a treasure.

Which character – as performed by Patti Smith – was your favourite?

The story is read with one voice, not portraying the people she has met in her life by different voices, but rather as personal recollections of events.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were occasions of tears running down my cheeks, despite sitting on the commuter train. And episodes where I giggled. But which of all the reflections and events that will move the listener are probably different for every person. Just be prepared to be emotionally involved at some level.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • P
  • 11-11-15

Love and Art

A story of love and art. A story worth telling. A story of a time.
Beautiful.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I was immersed in Just Kids

It's a fascinating story, whether you are fan of Patti Smiths' music or not. It's beautifully written in such poetic way. It transported me to exciting NYC in the 60s and 70s, about the struggle and drive of two people to make it as artists, and their love, relationship and admiration for one another. It's full of poetry, I absolutely loved it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The greatest love story I've ever come across

Calling this a love story might be underselling it, but in the broader sense it is a love story. Perhaps an unconventional one, but most probably the greatest one I've ever come across.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book v interesting and moving

great book makes you think about your life as ana artist and the infinite connection to God. Inspiring and moving and engaging!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Hypnotising

What made the experience of listening to Just Kids the most enjoyable?

I started reading this in paperback but having Patti read it directly made it so much more enjoyable. Felt like I was actually there at the time.

What does Patti Smith bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Her voice alone can capture the sense of time and place and how it must've felt. She lived this life and hearing her recount it was wonderful.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

There were definitely times when I welled up. It's a really powerful and emotional read, I'd be surprised if most people weren't moved by it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Mild-mannered woman goes through life. The end.

What didn’t you like about Patti Smith’s performance?

The woman cannot pronounce 'drawing' to save her life. And she says 'drawing' a lot. Finding out during the book that she used to do poetry readings I'm like.... wut. Could be that her way of speaking is good for a short poem, but it's tedious for the duration of a whole book.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I liked the little snippets of observations about her contemporaries. But there's a long way between them.

Any additional comments?

This was just a colourless narration of stuff that happened. I didn't feel close to the people in it, or drawn in by her journey, but I might just not be into this kind of stuff.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Just Beautiful

Just beautiful from start to finish. Can't wait to find out all about her work now.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • BenGee333
  • Edinburgh, Midlothian Scotland
  • 20-09-15

a very beautiful , romantic , sad book

about a very beautiful , romantic , happy life

i knew nor thought about patti smith , a friend urged me to read this book , i am so glad i did

i read [ on kindle ] while She read to me on audio book , She has a beautiful voice and a wonderful way of saying ' drawings ' [ which to me sounds like ' DRAWLings ' ]

i experience [ the tiniest part of the life of an artist ] and have lived off the power and energy that experience infused in my soul , this book spoke to that part [ and others ]

it's better to have loved and lost ...

knowing love [ art , work , people , inspiration , romance ] like that one can live [ and mourn ] a lifetime more ...

patti you wrote a lovely book , thank you for your honesty in sharing stories of your life

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Michelle
  • 21-09-11

Pure gold.

This audio book had me spellbound. I was transported - lost in the world of Patti and Robert, New York City, 1960's and was oblivious to everyone and everything around me. I hung off every word, and 'couldn't put it down'. If you admire the work of Robert Mapplethorpe and/or Patti Smith you will love this book like I did. But I think even if you have never heard of either of them, you will love it. It stands alone as a love story, a life story, beautifully crafted. That Patti Smith herself has narrated the book makes the audio book even better than reading it visually would be. Her voice adds to the magic. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kate
  • 21-08-12

Great!

I've been a fan of Patti Smith's music for years, but initially hesitated to listen to this book because I thought it might be mainly about the relationship between two people, one of whom died tragically young, and therefore a bit depressing. I'm so glad I did listen to it, because it's very much a portrait of a time and place (the late 1960s and the 1970s in New York). It is also about the relationship between Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe, which is handled in a delicate and not at all maudlin way. I gained a lot of insight into all of the participants and their artistic milieu, making me curious to know more about some aspects of the latter, even though I'd already read a fair bit about the topic. The book is read very well by Patti Smith in her distinctive way, which somehow manages to combine directness and deceptive simplicity with emotional complexity and surprising ideas, just like her music. This is a well-crafted and sensitive book that impresses me with Patti Smith's writing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Liam K
  • 04-09-17

Incredible, beautiful book

I highly recommend this book! The fact that it is read by Patti Smith makes it even that much more powerful!

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  • malcolm larri
  • 26-04-17

So beautiful

I didn't want it to end...magical and engaging and Patti's voice is hypnotic.

Moving straight on to her next book

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  • Lisa
  • 22-08-16

Patti Smith reading is pure gold

This is by far one of the most precious audio book experiences that I've ever had.

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Profile Image for Neil Taylor
  • Neil Taylor
  • 28-11-15

Beautiful, sorrowful, heartfelt

Any additional comments?

Patti Smith is a woman who has always taken her art and her writing seriously, so it was no surprise that Just Kids should be such a finely-crafted work. A beautiful, yet sorrowful elegy for a youth of dreams, ideals, hardship and loss. Patti's own voice is probably the ideal medium to tell the story of her life with, and without, Robert Mapplethorpe, though at times her mournful delivery can overshadow moments that in print at least, may have been more uplifting.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 17-06-15

drawl-ings

If you could sum up Just Kids in three words, what would they be?

Very Good Indeed

Who was your favorite character and why?

Not really applicable as it's a memoir. Possibly 'the period' is the best character.

Have you listened to any of Patti Smith’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I haven't listened to any other of her performances. I listened to this book for the insight to Robert Mapplethorpe. Discovering Patti Smith along the way was an outstanding bonus. I'll certainly read any other memoirs she brings to the market.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Excellent. Unequivocally so.

Any additional comments?

None

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  • jennifer
  • 20-08-12

Artist Tribe

What made the experience of listening to Just Kids the most enjoyable?

Having Patti Smith narrate it

What did you like best about this story?

It re-connected me to my path as an Artist. It made me long for creativity and self-expression in a way that is poetic and meaningful. One of the most inspiring stories I've read/listened to for living a unique and self-directed life.

Which character – as performed by Patti Smith – was your favorite?

Patti's

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Free Soul

Any additional comments?

Patti is an amazing storyteller with a unique voice, as unique as her life story and the characters that are a part of it. She is a wise and intuitive woman and her tale is deep and poetic.

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  • Christer Nuutinen
  • 18-08-12

How To Become An Artist Through Hardships

After listening to the audio version read by Patti Smith herself, it's easy to understand why she is such a remarkable poet. The book is based mostly on Smith's own diary entries, which she has reinterpreted as a narrative.

Smith indeed gravitated to the right place at a right time when entering the artistic hub of early 70's Manhattan art scene and especially Chelsea Hotel.

You might call her lucky to have stumbled upon all the art and music greats mentioned also in this book. Still, the road was rocky indeed and the way she instinctively finds her place during this book is a lesson in itself and a great coming-of-age story.

Smith tells about even the most mundane incidents with an admirable knack at storytelling. Her poetic way of suffering the hardships with dignity and savouring the beauty in the small joys of life makes for a great listen.