September 25, 2010

Book Review: 'Just Kids' by Patti Smith

With 'Just Kids' Patti Smith has crafted a beautifully-written, fascinating and above all wonderfully honest auto-biography/biography of her early years with lover and lifelong friend, the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The book charts her arrival in New York, her chance meeting with Mapplethorpe and their personal, financial and artistic struggles - and eventually successes - both together and apart. At times moving, funny and heart-breaking, and consistently fascinating, I found myself torn between not being able to put the book down and wanting to slow down and savour the journey. This is not of interest to die-hard Smith/Mapplethorpe fans and admirers, although i will most likely make you more of a fan of both by the end of it. This is a book for anyone interested in an honest account of the struggles of an artist, the trials of relationships and the confusion of a conflicted sexual identity. With a cast of famous and cult characters - William Burroughs, Harry Smith, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix - drifting in and out of their lives, this is a fascinating book about the New York art-scene in the 70s as well as the moving story of two intersecting lives. The book is an inspiring, unspoken tribute to artists, musicians and anyone who marches to the beat of their own drum.