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Patti Smith: Just Kids

Discussion in 'Non-Fiction Books' started by beer good, Jan 10, 2011.

  1. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Patti Smith: Just Kids (2010)

    They're so very young when they meet up, seemingly the definition of wide-eyed idealists; Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe run into each other on a street corner in New York in 1967, both 20 years old. One would go on to reinvent rock music, being hailed as the godmother of punk; the other would become one of the most controversial photographers of the 1970s and 80s. Of course, they didn't know that then; they just knew they had to express... something.

    Patti Smith's memoir begins and ends with Robert Mapplethorpe's death in AIDS in 1988, and is as much the story of Robert as it is of Patti, at least during the 10 years they spent as off-and-on lovers, friends, and collaborators before their careers took off for real and they went their separate ways (their actual careers are barely mentioned). But it's not just your typical "I'm a celebrity, here's my life" story; it's very much a part of Patti Smith's ongoing work. There was always something transcendent about her writing, both as a songwriter and a poet; she wears her influences on her sleeve (Dylan, Rimbaud, Morrison, Ginsberg, Richards, Blake, Coltrane - for a supposed punk rocker, she was never so much a radical destroyer as a fundamentalist rebuilder) but she treats them not just as influences but as mythic writing to be ground up, mixed up and used to spell out herself. Just listen to her debut album Horses, with lyrics that freewheel dervish-like from poetry to r'n'b to prose to punk to religious visions, picking it all apart and putting it together in a brand new way that somehow makes them one.
    YouTube - Patti Smith- Gloria
    She's become more linear and slightly less intuitive with age, but that intensity and lateral thinking still remains. So in Just Kids we get the story, of course; Robert and Patti coming into their own both personally, artistically and sexually (Robert, as would become clear, is gay but raised so strictly it took him years to come to terms with it). But you also get the how and the why; the constant search for something that they can catch but never hold, flitting from idea to idea, from artform to artform, immersing themselves in one idea after another until they find their own voice to say what they need. And the way they depend on each other. And then he's gone.
    As Robert Mapplethorpe lies dying, he asks her "Did art get us?" He became a famous artist, he found his voice, he died barely 40 years old. Art makes promises of immortality, and in one way she can do that by writing the book, but in another he's still very much dead. Just Kids is a memoir by a rock star; it's an ecstatic exploration of what art is, should be, can't be; but at its heart, it's a very intimate story about two kids who, in various ways, loved each other. And as all of the above, it's one of the best memoirs I've read recently.
    :star4:+
     
  2. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Fascinating and excellent review Beer Good. The book goes on my list. Partly also because an exhibition of his work that I saw, amid all the furor in Washington DC while he lived, was absolutely stunning. Many thanks.
     
  3. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Glad to hear it, Peder, thanks!
     
  4. SFG75

    SFG75 Well-Known Member

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    Excellent review, one of the best on this site ever.

    Wasn't there a movie made based on the book?
     
  5. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Thanks!

    There was a documentary made a few years ago, Patti Smith: Dream Of Life, which isn't based on the book but - for obvious reasons - handles a lot of the same subject matter, though the focus is more on who and where she is now. It's a pretty good film if you're a fan.
     
  6. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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  7. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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  8. Bryan459

    Bryan459 Member

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    Coming into the group late, it's all been said and done, but I'll add my two cents anyway. bg, very nice review of the book. I agree 100% about it's high achievement as a memoir.
     
  9. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Bryan!
     
  10. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Now have the book. Not too far down on my TBR list.
     
  11. Bryan459

    Bryan459 Member

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    Peder, if you're a fan, at all, of PS, you're going to love the book. I was never a fan of Mapplethorpe, he just wasn't on my radar, but learned so much about him from this memoir that he became very interesting. The path that PS followed from humble beginnings to her peak, and today, was surprising and fascinating.
     
  12. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Bryan,
    Oddly, I'm just the other way around. Patti Smith was never on my radar -- I'm a dinosaur, can't help it :sad: --, but Mapplethorpe's edginess was of interest.
    So, your recommendation moves the book up higher still on my TBR pile, anyway.
    Thanks
    Peder
     
  13. Bryan459

    Bryan459 Member

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    Peder, looking forward to your take on this book from a Mapplethorpe perspective. Enjoy.
     
  14. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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  15. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Oops, Bryan. I see that I missed your reply. I am very sorry. I did read the book and will have to take a look at it to refresh my thoughts beore posting -- soon. But that other book is currently taking my attention.
     
  16. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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  17. Bullyboy

    Bullyboy Member

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    I came on this thread way late. I suppose as a teen I was something of a poser. Philosophy and all the deep intense stuff went over my head. My patron saint was Lou Reed so I looked the part...but what they were talking about? Of course if you're baked and everyone else is too things can sound really profound. I had the 45 of "Hey Joe" and "Piss Factory. I think the sweet thing about this book is that she seemed totally unaware that her best friend had come out right in front of her. Interesting memoir of the era.
     

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