Saturday, May 14, 2011

Just Kids just great

Book 53: Just Kids by Patti Smith

In her award-winning memoir, Just Kids,  Patti Smith makes it evident that her creative force is boundless, her artistry peerless.

Smith, mostly widely known as the "Godmother of Punk," originally saw herself as an artist. She also dabbled on the stage, wrote poetry and experimented with visual art before launching her career as a punk rocker with the release of her influential 1975 debut album, Horses.

Such creative range suggests that no one should be surprised that Smith is also a talented writer.  Yet her memoir, which won the 2010 Nation Book Award for non-fiction, is surprising for its depth, maturity and insight. This is work of such ease and command that you would only expect it from the pen of someone who had been writing books their entire life. 

Just Kids charts her tumultuous relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The pair met in New York City, instantly become close friends and lovers soon thereafter. Both were determined to carve out a career in the arts.  Both proved a source of support and inspiration for the other as they struggled to find their voice and an audience in the toughest city in the world. 

Just Kids is a love story. Yet it's most intimate moments are reserved for its rare glimpse into the growth and development of two artists.  It is also a voyeuristic look at the broad New York City art community in the 1970s.  Rockers Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and playwright Sam Shepard are among the artist who populate this book.

I have never listened to Patti Smith's music.  I knew her name and that she was punk rocker. I knew nothing more until I read this luminous memoir of love and art.

Just Kids is just great.

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