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Just Kids

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  200,017 ratings  ·  11,844 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 Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 304 pages
Published January 19th 2010 by Ecco
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Roseamber Sumner It's an autobiography, the richest I've ever read. I listened to the audiobook version, Patti reading. She even sings at one point, and reads her poet…moreIt's an autobiography, the richest I've ever read. I listened to the audiobook version, Patti reading. She even sings at one point, and reads her poetry, nice and slow at the end of the book, her tributes to lost loves. I loved every word.(less)
Angel Gillaspie I haven't finished it yet, but I love her prose. She is, indeed, a poet (in my humble opinion). Perhaps you could read it with your tablet or laptop b…moreI haven't finished it yet, but I love her prose. She is, indeed, a poet (in my humble opinion). Perhaps you could read it with your tablet or laptop beside you and Google any of the names that come up. The Chelsea Hotel and the little bar & grill next to it are places that I wish I could have visited during this time.(less)

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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  200,017 ratings  ·  11,844 reviews

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Eddie Watkins
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel...

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
Dec 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
“It was the summer Coltrane died. The summer of 'Crystal Ships.' Flower children raised their empty arms and China exploded the H-bomb. Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. AM radio played 'Ode to Billie Joe.' There were riots in Newark, Milwaukee, and Detroit. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, the summer of love. And in this shifting, inhospitable atmosphere, a chance encounter changed the course of my life. It was the summer I met Robert Mapplethorpe.”

*Warning: Slightly gooey,
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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
Patrick Brown
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirsandbios
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
I admire this woman. She writes a deft, deeply felt prose. She has a peerless memory. She remembers gestures, apparel worn thirty years ago, favorite objects, facial expressions, stretches of dialog. She can reanimate for us moments of deep emotional complexity. This was clearly a labor of love. The character study of Robert Mapplethorpe is disturbing, shattering. We watch Smith living with him as a veil is lifted from her awareness, as her empathy broadens and she carries the reader along with ...more
fulfilling book riot's 2018 read harder challenge task #12: a celebrity memoir

extry points given to me, by me, for choosing a book that i have owned for more than a year. super-extry points for selfishly using the opportunity to interview nancy pearl for my own personal readers' advisory needs, to suggest a celebrity memoir that wasn't gonna waste my time. thanks, nancy pearl!

review to come!
review is now!

my tepid reaction to this book is in no way the fault of nancy pearl, who gave me exactly wh
Elizabeth Fleming
Dec 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
I found this book to be quite boring, unfortunately, especially given the fact that Smith is arguably an artistic genius. It started off strong, but after a bit the writing style began to wear 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 "I lay on," which all felt somewhat pretentious). Then she goes on and on (and ...more
I loved this book. I did not want it to end. To be honest, I did not know much about Patti Smith other than her music. When the book initially came out, I heard so many wonderful things about it. I thought I should give it a shot. But frankly, I was a bit tired of the 'musician' bio books as some were just so dreadful. I was so wrong to think that and hold off on this book.

I decided to go with the audio. I was immediately enthralled with it. The audio is narrated by Smith and she does an incredi
4.5 Stars

”It was the summer Coltrane died. The summer of “Crystal Ship.” Flower children raised their empty arms and China exploded the H-bomb. Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. AM radio played “Ode to Billie Joe.” There were riots in Newark, Milwaukee, and Detroit. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, the summer of love. And in this shifting, inhospitable atmosphere, a chance encounter change the course of my life.”

It was that summer when Patti Smith met Robert Mapplethorpe. Ju
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure how to do this book proper justice in a review. Just Kids is a book that enthralled me, surprised me, and ultimately, a book that I have fallen in love with. Not only is it one of the best books I've read this year, it is one of the best books I have ever read.

Knowing very little about Patti Smith or Robert Mapplethorpe going into reading this, I figured I would enjoy it but not quite appreciate it as much as someone who is a big fan of either. And while that might be true, I still
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Steven Godin
Patti Smith's Just Kids is a rare little gem of perpetual bliss. This differs from other memoirs I have read, and it left me with deep feeling of simply being happy to exist in this world. Smith writes about her time living in New York with Robert Mapplethorpe while they were both shaking off the dull scraps of adolescence and trying to break out as artists. Strewn throughout the book are pictures of them as very young excitable artists-in-training. I rarely have come across two people in book t ...more
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
its dark no im wrong its dawn i have my shades on
—‘Sleepless 66’

Patti Smith writes to us out of the great and endless narcotic American night in a language inherited from the Beats and refined across a lifetime of lines scribbled on journals and diner napkins and hotel matchbooks, carving out her version of the truth. Despite all her awed talk of Mallarmé and Baudelaire, she is much more in sync with her compatriots like Paul Bowles and Hunter S. Thompson, and when she walks through a New York c
Iris P
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who love music memoirs
Recommended to Iris P by: Jim
Just Kids

★★★ 3 Stars

I am frankly pretty surprised that this popular memoir didn't quite click with me. Just Kids should've been a perfect match and yet somehow I could never completely connect with the world and the lives of the people it chronicles.

Don't get me wrong, Smith's wordsmith is gorgeous and she is a wonderful storyteller. Her account of how she and her lover/collaborator/friend Robert Mapplethorpe, met and ended up right at the center of New York's influential art and music scene du
Lucy Langford
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

”We used to laugh at our small selves, saying that I was a bad girl trying to be good and that he was a good boy trying to be bad. Through the years these roles would reverse, then reverse again, until we came to accept our dual natures.”

In this book Patti Smith tells the story of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. What starts off as a love story, shifts and revolves into a deep connection of friendship and understanding and that of maker and muse.

Patti Smith has some of the mos
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Last year, I read Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road. I didn't know much about Steinem, but her book made me see her in a whole new light -- not an icon, but a lovely dedicated generous person. I had a similar experience listening to the audio of Patti Smith's Just Kids. I didn't know much about her, but certainly wasn't expecting to be so charmed by her. The memoir focuses on her early adult years. She moved to New York, developed a complicated relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and tried ...more
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Nothing is finished until you see it."
- Robert Mapplethorpe, quoted in 'Just Kids'

"Who can know the heart of youth but youth itself?"
- Patti Smith, 'Just Kids'


A memoir of images, people, and hopes 'Just Kids' explores the funky relationship of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe as they began their unique relationship and struggled to emerge as artists. The power of this memoir is the way Patti Smith works the words to create a canvas broad enough to catch both Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first audiobook and I chose a good one to listen to, love Patti’s speaking voice. I never knew much about her, she’s over a decade older then me and I wasn’t ever into punk music at all. This was very interesting though, how she met Mapplethorpe and how they got by in New York, their bohemian lifestyle, and the people who they spent time with. What a special relationship these two “kids” had!
I will make sure to listen to M Train in 2019!
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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
May 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
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"
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
"Why can't I write something that would awake the dead? That pursuit is what burns most deeply. I got over the loss of his desk and chair, but never the desire to produce a string of words more precious than the emeralds of Cortes. Yet I have a lock of his hair, a handful of his ashes, a box of his letters, a goatskin tambourine. And in that folds of faded violet tissue a necklace, two violet plaques etched in Arabic, strung with black and silver threads, given to me by the boy who loved Michela ...more
Elyse  Walters
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Enchanting, enlightening, and entertaining...
....moved me to tears at the end.

Patti Smith pumped love, music, art, books, men, women, children, beauty, kindness, mindfulness, sadness, humanity, and lovely poetry into my veins....

Her writing was gorgeous—
real, calming, thoughtful, interesting, and inspiring.

Step in to Greenwich Village, Berkeley, and San Francisco during the 60’s and 70’s, Bohemian rock’n wonderful lifestyle nostalgic memories.

With over 2000 appreciative & passionate reviews o
As he was dying Robert Mapplethorpe ask Patti Smith to write their story; "You have to he said, no one but you can write it". After reading this book I can understand why he said that. No biographer, other than Patti, could know, let alone describe, the level of trust and dependence they shared; and their singular kind of love that, even after reading this, is hard for the reader to fully understand.

What capable hands he left that project in, I'm not sure he even realized it, I'm not sure Patti
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most interesting memoirs I've had the pleasure of reading. I got absolutely lost in this. Would absolutely recommend if you need a bit of creative inspiration! ...more
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Back in the day I had a neighbour that used to listen to very loud music every weekend in the morning (sometimes well into the afternoon). I remember being in bed and waking up, for example, to the sound of Guns and Roses’ November Rain, Don Henley’s The Boys of Summer or Patti Smith’s Because the Night. I liked November Rain but absolutely fell in love with The Boys of Summer and Because the Night and (tried to) sing them all the time; while I was just playing around, did my homework or was wai ...more
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PATTI SMITH is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Smith had her first exhibit of drawings at the Gotham Book Mart in 1973 and has been represented by the Robert Miller Ga

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