Dan's Reviews > Just Kids

Just Kids by Patti Smith
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's review
Mar 12, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012

in some ways, reading just kids was a telling barometer of my own, mid-thirties cynicism about art-making. smith's romantic, often heroic assessment of the value of art is way out of sync with my own sensibilities. it also seemed, at first, like another warmed-over baby boomer artifact about how young and free everyone was back in the 60's. thankfully, this isn't ultimately where just kids is headed - and even when it indulges the occasional old-hippie-hyperbole, there's an open-ness and honesty about it that overrides my usual eye-rolling. there aren't many people in the world who can make me take a prayerful tribute to jim morrison seriously (or declarations like "i'm going to san francisco to find myself," for that matter), but i guess patti smith is one of them. being a legitimate rock legend responsible for a body of work that lives up to the bombast probably adds considerable weight to her powers of persuasion...

there are some small-scale thrills among the big ones, too. as a life-long record geek with a penchant for NYC "pre-punk," it's thrilling to read her account of her first television concert, or the time that she finally got around to seeing the velvet underground. and as someone fascinated by warhol and the hot mess that circulated around him, it was exciting to read about smith's long friendship with jackie curtis. day to day life at the chelsea hotel is pretty engaging as well, albeit mostly for reasons that weren't all that surprising.

finally, there's the friendship at the heart of the story between her and robert mapplethorpe. i'm fairly indifferent to mapplethorpe as an artist, and to be honest, he can seem like a pompous ass at times in the narrative. but their warts-and-all friendship does eventually shape up into something miraculous. smith's honest assessment of her own contradictory feelings about him is genuinely moving - especially as she describes a certain kind of latent homophobia she works through as robert begins to take his male relationships more seriously. the ending is obviously tragic and upsetting, but it also makes for an inspiring conclusion to their relationship. smith is good at characterizing the transformative power of death, and when she describes the ways that robert "is still with her," there's nothing hoakey about it. it's clear that he is, and that the book was a valid way of maintaining their friendship through memory, tribute and affect.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Philip Bardach I'm pleasantly surprised that I myself didn't dare snicker at her homage to Jim Morrison.

message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan i think if i was hanging around with famous people during the late 60's, jim morrison would have been someone i would have avoided at all costs.

message 3: by Ted (last edited Mar 13, 2012 06:12PM) (new)

Ted dan, very nice review. doesn't make me want to read the book (not my cup of tee), but still very nice writing and very interesting to read your take on what is actually told in the book. (think you'll ever get the shift key fixed on your keyboard? joke)

message 4: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan thanks ted... for what it's worth, it's a quick read. i actually listened to the audio book which smith reads herself. this added an extra something, i think.

and while we're joking, how does one drink a "cup of tee" anyway? (also kidding)

message 5: by Ted (new)

Ted Boy I'm getting old. Maybe I have golf on the brain.

message 6: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan haha!

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