Just Kids
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Just Kids

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  60,734 ratings  ·  5,785 reviews
In Just Kids, Patti Smith's first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the ChelseaHotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality t...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 19th 2010 by Ecco (first published 2010)
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Best Memoir / Biography / Autobiography
63rd out of 2,470 books — 2,845 voters
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Best Non Fiction About Music
8th out of 755 books — 606 voters


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Eddie Watkins
I never thought much about Patti Smith. The images I saw of her never attracted me, and what I knew of her Rimbaud fixation turned me off. I always had a problem with the Beat and Punk appropriation of Rimbaud as more a figure of rebellion than a sophisticated poet. For me poetry is a phenomenon of the page, not an outfit you wear down the street. I also never got into Punk Rock. Going to college in the fall of 1983 I had probably only heard of The Sex Pistols, though I had never listened to the...more
Ian Paganus
Looking For You (I Was)

I can see why some reviews detect white-washing or sugar-coating in "Just Kids", but I wanted desperately to believe the story Patti Smith was telling about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.

Glitter in Their Eyes

Patti admits to her naivete, but I don't think she was trying to hide stuff from her kids or anything.

Nor do I think she closed off her emotions about her past.

Ultimately, the book is a love story, only the love extended over a long period, and sometimes it...more
B0nnie
Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel...
description

Just Kids makes me feel so damn left out. If only I had been able to show up at the Chelsea in the early 1970s. I coulda been a contender, I could have lived for art. Oh yes, I would have been very naïve just like Patti had been at first. I totally get that. I don’t think I could have been as brave tho'. Art is a harsh mistress.

Suddenly [Robert] looked up and said, “Patti, did art get us?”

I looked away, not really wanting to think about it. “I don’t
...more
Nick
There are some moments of real poignancy here and some very deft turns of phrase, but I was also just bored stiff for most of it. Clearly Smith has led a really interesting life, but she's just not a great writer. The great bulk of the book was a long series of "Then this happened. Then that happened. Then Robert did this. Then I did that." And while there is a lot of reflection about art, there is very little on the subject of her relationship with Mapplethorpe, supposedly the purpose of writin...more
Janet
This book will be added to "The Art Spirit" as an essential volume on my writer's "behind the desk" bookshelf, the story of two baby artists and how they grew. There's an oddly innocent tone to this all--for instance, the sexual relationship between the two of them is never really discussed, only accepted--when Patti gets the clap, we understand it's from him, but this is not a kiss and tell memoir. It's an opportunity to walk a mile in Patti Smith's head, in a less coded and more factual way th...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Smith writes with a poet's clear imagery and an economy of words all too rare in the memoir genre.
Before Robert Mapplethorpe died, Patti Smith promised him that she would one day write the story of their years in New York City. Now, twenty years after his death, she has made good on that promise.

This is the story of a beautiful, complex, demanding and ever-evolving friendship between two young, hopeful, actively unconventional creatives. They alternated in the role of muse to each other as the...more
Melanie

"What should we aspire to as we go on our road? When I was in my early 20s, I was lucky to have William Burroughs as a friend and mentor. When I was with him and I asked him this question: “what should I aspire to?” and he thought, and he said: “my dear, a gold American Express would be good.” but after that he said very thoughtfully, “build your name.” and I said, “William, my name is Smith.” and he said, “well, you’ll have to build a little harder.” but what William meant when he told me to bu...more
Velvetink
Did anyone think Patti was "whitewashing" her past in this?

"longing. that desire. that tapeworm.a word
I hadn't learned".... (Seventh Heaven- "Longing")

I really longed to LOVE "Just Kids", to go the whole hog with 5 stars. I had waited long enough to get hold of a copy & eventually when my library got it in some jerk kept it overdue 3 whole months and I was checking with them every 2nd day like a teenager. "Is it back yet". I wore out my welcome buying up discarded books and lurking near the...more
Patrick Brown
This book is remarkably easy to parody. Here, I'll try:

"I was crossing Tompkins Square Park when I ran into a young man wearing a gabardine vest. He smiled at me and called me "Sister." It was a young George Carlin. Robert hated him because he frequently had flakes of rye bread in his beard, but I loved how he could make me laugh with his impressions of Mick Jagger. On this morning, though, we wept together at the news that Paul McCartney would have to sell his house in Cannes. It was a sort of...more
emily
I didn't just hate this book. I cherished my hatred for this book. Luxuriated in it. Drank deeply of my hatred.

I didn't just find the writing clunky, I found it odd, troubled by an overfamiliar relationship with the passive voice (lots of things "could be seen"), verbs (no one ever god damn says anything; they discourse, spiel, spin, regale, blah blah blah), and prepositions (why say "on" when you can add a syllable to get "upon"? why use the mundane "because" when you can replace it with "for"...more
Will Byrnes
Hi Ho, the artistic life.

I had very divergent feelings about Just Kids, Patti Smith's National-Book-Award-winning memoir about her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. There were times that I felt moved by the beauty of her writing, and others in which I found her to be nothing more than another spoiled, entitled kid who got where she got to, talented or not, because of connections. It is not that Smith arrived in NYC with a list of names and numbers. But she did have the good fortune to encoun...more
Jessica
just got the kindle preview. could be annoying or great.

* * * * * *

Finished this last night. Of Mapplethorpe and Smith's relationship, I'll only say that I found it sweet and sad. Other things interested me about this book more.

I have to agree with Yahaira, it was both annoying and great. The starving artist / wannabe might be a phase lots of kids and young people went through before they turned into responsible adults, but it is one I skipped entirely, so yeah, while I found some of the writin...more
Elizabeth Fleming
I found this book incredibly boring. It started off ok, but after a bit her writing style started to get on my nerves (examples: using the word "for" instead of "because," as in "I went to the diner, for I was hungry" and "I hadn't any money" instead of "I didn't have any money" and "I lay upon the mattress" instead of the simpler, just fine, "I lay on," ugh. Pretentious). Then she goes on and on and ON about Rimbaud. Enough about Rimbaud already. Seriously. I'm not kidding. And Baudelaire. Shut...more
Erik
It is difficult for me to think of an artist who illuminates pure positive affect in the way that Patti Smith does. For someone who always had a special place in his heart for Patti's "Horses" record, I can safely say there are moments where her music and her words have taken my mind and my heart to places I would have never imagined. For me, the record has a similar effect to Allen Ginsberg's, "Howl," and Walt Whitman's, "Song of Myself." The passion, the energy, the blood-racing anticipation b...more
Del Zimmerman
Before reading this book, I honestly didn't know much about Patti Smith or her music, nor did I have much more knowledge about the artistry of Robert Mapplethorpe.

In this treasure, Patti recounts her chance meeting of Robert as soon as she arrived in New York in the late 1960s. In less than 300 pages, she composes a beautiful love letter to the man who would immediately become her best friend, muse, protector, lover and, in many ways, soulmate.

In the memories she shares, readers get an intimate...more
 ~Geektastic~
The runaway artist is a typical phase of adolescence, and the true measurement of one’s devotion to a creative life is the ability to sustain the kind of drive that can keep you going through the hunger, cold, loneliness and (perhaps worst of all) the disillusionment of adulthood. Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe had this drive in spades, although the route they used to reach their final goals can be seen as both fortuitous and questionable. The last thing an artist wants to be is a “sell out...more
christa
I'll say this for Patti Smith: Homegirl certainly knows how to write lifestyle porn.

Somewhere between the Chelsea Hotel and the insertion of a millionaire benefactor I closed her love letter to Robert Mapplethorpe, "Just Kids," bonked myself in the head and said "Knock it off." I needed to stop being dazzled and wooed and to start seeing through clear eyes or I'd wake up in a bus stop in Detroit clutching a one-way ticket to 1971.

People do that. Chuck it all, grab a blanket, commit 100 percent...more
MJ Nicholls
There is a whiff of earnestness about Patti Smith but now we’ve got that out the way, shut up and listen to Horses, Easter, Gone Again and Trampin’ back-to-back for a whole month. If your nerve-endings and spatial awareness aren’t merrily bamboozled with light and love, you are not fit for human habitation. For Patti is a creature unto herself.

Just Kids radiates pure, unfiltered love for her friend Robert Mapplethorpe, and its simple prose tells a powerful tale of two driven artists seeking rele...more
Liana
She was a humble jack in the kingdom of New York's bygone era. Patti Smith--a free spirit alight in New York's golden years of pure art, unadulterated creation and madness. I truly adore this book.

It is utterly awe-inspiring to realize how many of these lives intertwined with hers. And it is utterly sobering to realize how many of those lives have led to demise and have turned to legends. She rubbed elbows with so many famous or infamous artists and personalities of the time that one needs a soc...more
Lavinia
I've known about the book for a long time, but was never really interested in reading it. Then a while ago I stumbled upon one of Patti's mesmerizing photos and I just knew I had to read it.

I must be honest and say that besides "Because the night" (which is one of my all time favourite songs), I wasn't very much familiar with her music, let alone her poetry, art or private life. That's probably why I googled something every five pages or so: artists, musicians, poems, Robert's art, Patty's album...more
Ellie
Just Kids is rock stark/poet Patti Smith's memoir of her early days with Robert Maplethorpe in New York City. After a relatively brief descript of her growing up, Smith moves (literally and metaphorically) to NYC. It's the late '60s artist/musician world, the world of Max's Kansas City and Andy Warhol, of William Boroughs and the Chelsea Hotel, and just about every famous poet/musician of the time passes through these pages. For me, the book was both a nostalgic trip to a time long-gone that I r...more
Tosh
Superb memoir by an iconic figure. I would rate this highly with Bob Dylan's excellent memoir. Patti Smith focuses on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe in the late 60's and early to mid 70's - just before she made her first album "Horses."

Again, it is not always the narrative that pulls you through, but the writing itself, and Smith is a fantastic writer. Also life in the Chelsea Hotel really comes to life in her hands. I can smell the front entrance just by her writing of the location,...more
Jimmy
I think she's really good at writing about intimacy. Other things she's not as good at. But there were some truly magical moments in the first 100 pages or so. That said, there is something of this personal myth-making that makes me uneasy... it is both sincere and totally constructed at the same time. Something about how she retro-actively makes everything seem so fated, with all the right coincidences and people coming in at the right times (makes for a great story though).

So many things are...more
Offbalance
Mar 05, 2010 Offbalance rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: music fans, fans of memoirs
Recommended to Offbalance by: Time Out New York
I cried on the subway this morning. I didn't care who saw or what they thought.

Why did I cry?

Because Robert Mapplethorpe died.

And yes, I'm aware that this happened years ago. I'm even more aware that his death is the opening scene of Patti Smith's spectacular memoir Just Kids. But by the time I got to the end, after reading about their lives together and apart, about everything they endured, attempted, pushed for and strained to grasp throughout their long friendship, I'd felt like I'd lost a f...more
Trish
This spare, elegiac memoir about Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith has something of the Christian iconography about it: if words were installations, one can imagine an altarpiece with the Virgin Mary and perhaps a crucifix surrounded by velvet, feathers, bits of lace, and little skull beads…not kitschy, but strong, puzzling, edgy. Patti Smith is a force, though perhaps one might say she is the negative to Mapplethorpe's positive in the first part of the book: the black negative to Mapplethorpe...more
Fasterpussycat Moore
I read so many memoirs, I'd almost forgotten how extraordinary the genre can be in the right hands. Smith's are the right hands.

Smith and Mapplethorpe were beautiful and poor and in love, tangled up in each other's art and arms, full of bravado and questioning and each with an unwavering faith in the other. On the brink, on the edge. Reading about it is marvelous, every page lush with language, it sometimes reads like a travelogue of NYC in the late '60s/early '70s. With run-ins and meetings and...more
David Cerda
A lovely book about youth, hope, the meaning of love and being an artist. Patti Smith writes beautifully and certainly paid her dues but manages to put a positive spin on hunger, head lice and desperate situations. She romanticizes the underground NY art scene when it sometimes it just sounds disgusting. She must have really wanted it and I have to admire that. Sometimes it got a little too artsy fartsy for my taste but it was written in her voice and I believe it. There seemed to be things she...more
Kim
Mar 14, 2011 Kim added it
Shelves: 2011
I like how honest her writing is – might sound a bit strange but there you go. I feel like Patti Smith wrote about things I’m struggling with as well. I recognise thoughts, feelings. it’s wonderful to realise you’re not alone. it’s also wonderful to finally read words that describe the way you feel, when you were never able to find these words yourself.

in some way, this book is for everyone. every human being can be an artist. it’s wonderful how these two people were able to help each other in...more
Mike
Finally, a book (or choose any kind of media) that speaks about what it is like to move to New York City with nothing in your pocket and what you have to do to scrape by to eke out an existence. We always hear stories about musicians and artists and actors/actresses moving to New York with $1.42 in their pocket, but there is never any detailed discussion of what that person did to eat food, where they slept, etc. I'm fascinated by this question and always wonder, "How did this person manage to k...more
Sara
To be completely truthful, I have never experienced any of Patti Smith's work; I was aware of her, of course - that photo of her in the white shirt (taken by Robert Mapplethorpe) did leave an indelible mark on my memory - but I think I just filed her away in my "too cool for me" vault and never gave her a thought beyond that. The same applies to Mapplethorpe really; I knew of him, his work, the controversies it inspired, but had no inkling of the man. To learn that Smith and Mapplethorpe were lo...more
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196092
Patti Smith (born Patricia Lee Smith on December 30, 1946) is an American singer-songwriter and poet. She was influential in the birth of the punk rock with her 1975 debut album Horses.
Called "Godmother of Punk" she integrated the beat poetry performance style with garage rock. Her allusions introduced 19th century French poetry to American teens, while her "unladylike" language defied the disco...more
More about Patti Smith...
Woolgathering Early Work, 1970-1979 The Coral Sea Complete Babel

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“No one expected me. Everything awaited me.” 1375 likes
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