Mandy Jo's Reviews > Just Kids

Just Kids by Patti Smith
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's review
Jul 02, 2012

really liked it
Read in July, 2012

This week’s headline? “They’re just kids.”

Why this book? National Book Award

Which book format? found on Kindle

Primary reading environment? The Steeping Room

Any preconceived notions? I had none…

Identify most with? “exhausted baby snake”

Three little words? “Love his work.”

Goes well with? “French confection connection”

Recommend this to? “gifted hustling children”

Several years ago, I set my MySpace profile picture to a photograph my boyfriend had taken of me. I’m getting ready to go out at night, applying mascara with my mouth opened wide, and he has caught me in the mirror through the crook of the arm that is wielding the mascara wand.

One of our friends commented that the photo reminded him of something from the Chelsea Hotel. I no longer have a MySpace profile, so I can’t go back to see exactly what he wrote, but I’m pretty sure he was referencing a famous photo of Patti Smith.

Confession time: Before this book came out, I had no idea who Patti Smith was. Ditto for Robert Mapplethorpe.

I remember once seeing the video for 10,000 Maniacs' "Because the Night" (1994) on the multi-TV screen behind the cash register at Wet Seal, and wondering why the MTV Unplugged audience was so stoked about the song. Say what you will about my counterculture depravity; I’ve heard it all before (like the time I confessed in a college classroom that I had only just heard the song “Me and Bobby McGee” (1971) a few days earlier.

I think that actually made this a better read, because I didn’t know exactly how it was going to work out. I didn’t know the cast of famous characters that would prance through the pages. I didn’t know which medium would be the one that finally let young Patti express herself to the world. I didn’t know how and why she and Robert could be pulled apart.

I’m not as bowled over by this book as everyone else, though I did enjoy it. I’m just wary of all the suburban Patti Smith wannabes I’ve heard talking about this book. You know, like they can relate.

Other cultural accompaniments: Guernica by Pablo Picasso, The Science of Sleep , the season finale of Girls, the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald spread Robert Mapplethorpe did for Esquire (???)

Grade: A-

I leave you with this:

“I wasn’t kin to these people, but because of the free-floating atmosphere, I could roam within it. I had faith.

I could not identify with political movements. In trying to join them I felt overwhelmed by yet another form of bureaucracy. I wondered if anything I did mattered.

I often felt like Alice with the Mad Hatter, negotiating jokes without punch lines, and having to retrace my steps on the chessboard floor back to the logic of my own peculiar universe.

I wanted to be a poet but I knew I would never fit into their incestuous community.”
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