I heard about Patti Smith from a fairly young age, I knew about her music and poetry and that she was one of the forefathers of the New York punk scene but I was never really a loyal fan of hers.
I knew little of her art and less about her life until I received a copy of “Just Kids.” I normally avoid autobiographical books, although I sometimes do like glimpsing in the private lives of people I admire, but Patti Smith really knows how to tell the story of her life.
The book follows her and her friendship/love affair with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, from his death in 1989, jumping back into the end of the 1960’s. From the first pages, you get the feeling that these two people are soul mates and not in the conventional lovey-dovey kind of way but in the pure looking and seeing each other’s souls and understanding what they see in there.
Being a die-hard fan of the New York scene from the late 60’s – late 70’s time, obsessed in my teenage years with Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground, Nico, Edie Sedgwick, The Chelsea Hotel, this book was the perfect way for me to see deeper into the underground art scene that I admired. Although, the sight you are presented with is not a pleasant one.
They say that to get somewhere, everyone must pay their dues. Well, Patti and Robert sure paid theirs, from staying in unsafe, dirty living spaces, having no money for food and art supplies, working boring, low paid 9 to 5 jobs so they could survive, suffering from STDs like the French poets they so admired, and in their darkest moments, Robert even engaged in male prostitution, becoming an occasional “Rent Boy” so they could have money for rent and food.
I recommend reading this book even if you are not a fan of Patti Smith or the art movement in New York from the early 70’s. The bond between the two main characters transcend space and time, and it has definitely become my favorite love story of all time.