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4.6 out of 5 stars174
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on 28 November 2012
I found this a compelling insight into the complex, close and highly (artistically and emotionally, if not always financially) supportive relationship between Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. I'm not familiar with the work of RM and have come to the book as a fan of the author's music, and whilst music and some of its icons of the late 60s to mid 70s do get a mention (Jimi, The Doors, Janis, Tim Buckley) it is not a book about music. Rather, the central story concerns the artistic paths taken by two driven individuals. You get the impression neither could have achieved what they did without the other, and because I know nothing about the work of RM I have accepted the praise heaped on it by the author (other reviewers clearly think otherwise).
The book beautifully evokes New York with characters from many forms of the arts including painters, poets, fashion designers and musicians - as well as just the beautiful.
I personally really liked the space given to Harry Smith (who lived in the Chelsea Hotel at the same time as PS and RM), who I had previously only known as the enigmatic creator of the important and highly influential collection of field recordings of American folk.
Highly readable, and recommended.

PS I write short reviews to try and help people decide quickly whether an item might be of interest. If you mark this review "unhelpful" (not simply that you disagree with me), then a short comment explaining why would be appreciated.
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Anyone familiar with the lives and works of
Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe will know
that this story cannot have a happy ending.
Mr Mapplethorpe's death from AIDS-related illness
in 1989 drew a sad line underneath a unique
friendship. 'Just Kids' is Mme Smith's memoir of
that extraordinary relationship.

That they were kindred spirits from the start is evident
in Smith's affectionate prose. The energy that held them
together, in love and in adversity, contributed immeasurably
to their respective artistic achievements.
I had not realised how intertwined their creative paths
had been until reading this beautifully written book.

The 'High Priestess Of Punk' is a surprisingly gentle
and sensitive narrator. Starting with tender and vivid
reflections of her childhood in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
we quickly see that she will not linger there for long.
That she was an outsider (albeit a somewhat timid one)
from the start made her eventual pilgrimage to the dark
beating heart of culture in New York City inevitable.

She and Mapplethorpe fell into each others lives as much by
chance as by design. The descriptions of their early struggles
to establish a place for their art are unsentimentally drawn.
Her tales from the bowels of the Hotel Chelsea and accounts of
the brutal pecking order of bohemian wannabes at clubs like
Max's Kansas City are littered with the names of iconic
characters from this colourful period of the city's history.
It is as much a story of a time and place as it is an
excavation of her own emotional and creative trajectory.

That each of them eventually found their place (she in the
world of rock and roll and he in the photographer's studio)
would perhaps not have happened in quite the same way had
their mutual dependency, support, encouragement and love
not had the chance to flourish in those heady early years.

That their lives eventually moved in different directions
did not diminish the intensity and importance of their
primary and enduring attachment to one another.

'Just Kids' is a grown-up tale of two souls in search of meaning.

Highly Recommended.
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on 2 February 2010
This is an interesting memoir, especially for fans of Mapelthrope or Patti Smith. For the younger generation who may not be familiar with these two names. Maplethorpe was a photographer with a style that was recognizable no matter his subject (he died of AIDs in his early 40s in 1989) and lets just say he wore his homosexuality proudly (for more on mapelthorpe I recommend Mapplethorpe: A Biography). Smith is the poet singer song writer often referred to as the grandma of punk rock and an activist for many causes to this very day. In this Memoir Smith writes about her relationship with Maplethorpe in the late and early 1970s before they became famous. I thought it was fascinating to read about these two icons before they realized who the were or wanted to be. Its hard not to think of Smith as a poet rebel, guitar in hand or Mapelthorpe as the in your face artist, but Smith's book takes the reader back to when both were "Just Kids." You see Smith and Maplethorpe as young people, not always secure in who they are, groping to find their passions that were burning inside but not fully understood. In this memoir Smith also presents a picture of a New York that no longer exists, and that alone makes this wonderful reading. Not all song writers can successfully write lyrics as well as prose, Smith though has a gift with the written word that is transcendent. Heart felt and honest, like her music, I highly recommend this book. For more honest reading concerning Hollywood Icons in the 1960s I have to recommend "Misfits Country."
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on 25 August 2010
Beautifully written and moving account of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe's relationship. It's clear that Patti Smith thought about every element of this: the font, the photographs, the layout, as well as the poetry of it. Even if you know nothing about either of them (which my partner didn't until I urged him to give it a go) you will be touched by the hopes and dreams of these two 'kids'.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 October 2015
I love Patti Smith's first three albums. I saw her live in the mid-1990s and was, I'm sad to report, a bit bored. I thought she was destined to be one of those artists who, whilst I have a special affection for her, are no longer relevant. A few weeks ago (Sept 2012) I saw Patti play live at the End Of The Road festival and she was magnificent. Relaxed, passionate, funny, inspiring. That's not all, she's recently released a great new album called 'Banga'. And then there's this book. I bought it for a friend when it was published, and he told me it was good. Seeing Patti live inspired me to finally read it. In short it's a wonderful memoir by an interesting artist. If you have any interest in women in music, Patti Smith, punk, the seventies, then you would almost certainly enjoy it. The majority of the book chronicles Patti's relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. Together they evolve from penniless arrivals to New York city and into a pair of celebrated artists, via the Chelsea hotel, Max's Kansas City, CBGBs and much more. The book is a beautifully written delight. I heartily recommend it.
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on 28 March 2010
This book arrived swiftly and safely. It is a wonderful autobiography, the best I have read in years. Sensitively and honestly written, it is obvious that Patti Smith is a world away from celebrity culture. She is not influenced by money, status or bloody refreshing. She gives perceptive insights into many of the fast movers in the late 60s and early 70s American pop and art culture. I only wish I had no short term memory so I could read it again afresh....BRILLIANT
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on 14 January 2011
The book is just everything i expected and more.
It has pictures all over and a note from Patti you can't find in the previous edition, explaining what led her to write the book.

The only thing that didn't go so well was the time the expedition took.
It should had arrived before christmas and i received it only in the first week of january.

If you have any doubts about this edition, just forget them.

Great literature is right here.

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on 20 January 2011
Simply a beautiful memoir. Whereas Patti Smith's music, especially the early work that made her name, is often intense and veering toward the angry, this book is tenderly observed and affectionately written. Culturally and historically, it bridges the gap between the music of the 60s and the music of mid-70s New York that eventually gave birth to punk. Patti Smith straddles both eras, from her encounters with Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and a brief run-in with Grace Slick, to the burgeoning CBGB's and the band Television. Her fusion of art-poetry and edgy rock was a unique American voice. Her courage and integrity and devotion to poetry permeate the book.

Throughout are numerous candid pictures of Patti and Robert in their room at the Chelsea Hotel, or along the Coney Island boardwalk (with Patti very much looking like a child of the 60s!), all culminating, for me, in that iconic cover photo for Horses. Once of the best reads I've had of late. Well worth the purchase and the time.
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on 3 April 2011
I was a great fan of Patti Smith in my younger days but as she has grown older she has become an example of the kind of New Age weirdness and political correctness that make my teeth grind.*

So it was with some trepidation that I picked her memoirs of her time with Robert Mapplethorpe, expecting peace and love-type psychobabble.

Instead, it was a well-written, disciplined account of her relationship with him and early life and mercifully free from her political opinions.

She also resisted the temptation to get over-emotional about some episodes in her life, such as giving away her baby daughter when she was 19, and her description of how she and Mapplethorpe went their separate ways is refreshingly sober.

Her obsession with French badboy poet Rimbaud becomes a bit tedious especially as she does not explain why he was so important to her.

Nor does she give any good reason why she and Mapplethorpe chose to live in a cramped room in the Chelsea Hotel next to the room where Dylan Thomas died.

The quality slips at times and name dropping abounds - Dylan (Bob, not the Welsh one), William Burroughs, Salvador Dali, Janis Joplin, Lou Reed and Alan Ginzburg** - but overall the book is low key, factual and fairly convincing.

There are also incisive barbs such as her comment comparing Mapplethorpe with Andy Warhol: "I preferred an artist who transformed his time, not mirrored it."

It's difficult to believe she was as innocent and naïve as she makes out.

Patti Smith obviously regards herself as a "writer, performer and visual artist". However, as far as I am concerned she is a rock singer and will be judged as such.

I`ll never forget the impact her first album had on me when I was a student in Edinburgh in the early/mid 1970s and life was founded on rock and roll and first love.

* Check out her site if you don't believe me. ** Who thought she was a boy the first time he met her.
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I guess if you want to know what actually happened at last night's party you should ask the most sober person there and for the creative orgy that was 70's New York City that person is Patti Smith. Having avoided the worst drug excesses of her contemporaries she's retained amongst the clearest recollection of that time.

It's really touching to read how she and Robert Mapplethorpe look out for each other as they struggle to become artists and inspiring to hear how much they galvanise each other's talent and ambition. They must seem, in hindsight at least, to be the oddest of odd couples yet the most affecting and somehow the truest thing in the book is their love for each other. Patti Smith is probably the only person that could have lived this story and she's certainly the only person that could tell it with so much honesty and grace.
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