I was initially not inclined to read Just Kids by artist, poet, and rock star Patti Smith. However, I read good reviews and having not read the book was beginning to seem like a gap in my personal reading journal. Having started the book to get a taste of the writing and plot, I was quickly enamored. Smith's memoir of her romance/friendship with and devotion to the artist Robert Mapplethorpe is remarkably charming for a book about sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
Smith starts with the story of her arrival in New York. With only a few dollars, she slept in a park or, when able, hid all night in a back room of the book store where she got her first job. Then she met Robert Mapplethorpe with whom she then lived during her evolution as artist and poet. It was Mapplethorpe who later urged her to sing. After a few years they moved into the Chelsea Hotel, where artists could sometimes pay with art, and they met many artists, writers, and musicians, names readers will recognize, like Andy Warhol and Janis Joplin. Just Kids works well as a history of the 1960s and 1970s New York art community.
Just Kids is not a good choice for sensitive readers, as the behavior of Smith, Mapplethorpe, and their friends was meant to be provocative. Nevertheless, many readers will enjoy a classic story of starving artists finding recognition, respect, and love.
Smith, Patti. Just Kids. Ecco, 2010. 278p. ISBN 9780066211312.