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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

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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.

11 people found this helpful

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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.

4 people found this 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!

4 people found this 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.

2 people found this 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.

2 people found this 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.

2 people found this helpful

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Just Beautiful

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

3 people found this helpful

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  • 11-11-15

Love and Art

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

3 people found this helpful

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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

3 people found this 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.

12 people found this 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.

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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 person found this helpful

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  • Ray Hecht
  • 14-12-20

She is a legend, so full of heart

Patti Smith is a legend.

This memoir is a delight. Absolutely crucial for anyone interested in New York, the 60s and 70s, punk, art, music, poetry, and life.

I had previously read the punk oral history tome of Please Kill Me, which had many interviews with Patti Smith about her seminal time at Max's Kansas City and CBGB's, and I thought I had a decent impression of her. I was aware of her music, and that she came from a poetry background. Little did I know how much heart and talent in writing she held.

While Please Kill Me often aimed to shock, her own memoir Just Kids is full of soul and beauty. It is unapologetically sentimental, nothing wrong with that at all. There is the gay sex and occasional drugs and that sort of thing, but it's all told in such beautiful prose as simple parts of life. It's not about extremes, just getting at the root of what truly happens in one's love-filled memories...

Costar of this memoir is photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. They were famously friends, starving artists together struggling (and by struggling it was really bad in those early years indeed) in New York until they made it big. Their first meet-cute as she was running away from an older man trying to take advantage, their shy courtship, adventures at the Chelsea Hotel, the path he took as he explored BDSM and became such a controversial artist which she wasn't even into. Though ultimately he wasn't her orientation, they truly seemed to be soulmates throughout their lives.

The story jumps around, filled with so many precious details about New York in the 60s. When the punk era 70s come around, and Patti finds success, the stories then rush on by. Aside from a few excellent vignettes about how her most memorable songs were written, this particular part of her life is not really the point. She relishes in what made her an artist in the first place, rather than reliving the whole rock star life. In fact, the story if anything then kind of skips far away to the late 80s when Robert sadly contracted HIV and eventually passed. It's not fun, but it is what happened and that's the story to focus upon. These deep truths are what it's all about.

This is the Patti Smith aesthetic, her writing craft, and it is a valid powerful work of art.

Note: I listened to the audiobook edition, read by the author, which leaves me with such an impression.

So anyway, throughout it all, from beginning to end, they were ultimately just that: Just Kids

And as so eloquently said, one hopes, Paths That Cross Will Cross Again...

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  • Ben Vella
  • 10-12-20

The Artist’s World

Amazing journey into the lives of two soul mates and how they evolved. Beautifully written and the narration at first felt slow but then apt.

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  • Mathabatha
  • 27-08-19

This is love

In so many words, events, creations, lives, places, people, songs and memories. This is love.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-01-19

Already loved both Robert and Patti

and this made me love them more than before, with extra insight into how they were when they worked and into their dynamic as people

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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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  • 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.