Dani Peloquin's Reviews > Just Kids

Just Kids by Patti Smith
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's review
May 11, 2012

really liked it

It took me over in hour to decide to by this book and even after I brought it home I was worried that I would be disappointed. I have read other memoirs written by artists and singers and they all came off as narcissistic which led me to dislike them as artists and people. When I bought Just Kids, I thought that it would be different because I am ambivalent towards both Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. I think that this was the key to my not only enjoying the memoir but adoring it!!

The story is very simple: two friends decide to live and sacrifice themselves for each other and their dreams. Smith is in dire straights when she decides to move to Brooklyn and become an artist. She spends her nights sleeping in parks and her days wandering the streets looking for a job or food. One night she is on a date with a man when he becomes violent and she fears that he will rape her. The two are walking in a park when she sees Mapplethorpe sitting on a bench and asks him to pose as her boyfriend in hopes that it will scare off her date. Smith's plan works so well that she feels indebted to Mapplethorpe. The two go their separate ways only to find each other again through mutual friends. After their second meeting, they know that it is fate that they had met and soon they begin a relationship. Both are 21, naive, and working through their own ghosts. What begins as a sexual relationship becomes a symbiotic friendship from which the two promise to never leave. Though they move from place to place and Smith scrambles to make money for the two of them, they never lose sight of their dream to become artists. But Mapplethorpe's demons plague him so terribly that it pushes his work, morals, and friendship with Smith to the breaking point.

In a time when everyone and their dog is writing memoirs, it is hard to separate the wheat from the chafe. But Smith does it! Her writing and the structure of the memoir should be heralded for future writers in this genre. Personally, I was hooked from the first paragraph. I found her descriptions to be exceptionally well written, clear, and vivid. Unlike other memoirists, Smith does not shy away from the details that do not show her in the best light. Yet, at the same time, she does not dwell on her poor choices and sink into self pity. This is not a story about her life but about her love for her best friend.

Overall, Just Kids is a eulogy for Smith's best friend for whom she sacrificed everything with no regrets. It is a beautiful story that is tender and heart-wrenching. Though Smith and Mapplethorpe did become famous, it is not a memoir of the rich and famous; it's a tale of two down and out youths who found each other and lived for each other. It didn't make me want to rush out and buy her CDs or prints of his photographs, but that isn't the purpose of the memoir and for that I am very grateful! For now, it's one of by favorite books on 2010 and certainly one of my favorite memoirs of all time.


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