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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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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 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 fame..how 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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This is the story of how Patti Smith met and lived with the young Robert Mapplethorpe during the late 60's and 70's and how their relationship remained close even after he realised he was homosexual, and Patti Smith married and had a family. Their eventual success in their chosen fields - singer/songwriter, poet, artist, and in Mapplethorpe's case, photographer, did not come easy. The book is sometimes a shocking read as Smith recounts how they stole, took drugs, lived in squalor, and for Mapplethorpe at times selling his body for money as well as pleasure. Through it all they were unwavering in their determination to follow their art. Eventually, dying of Aids, Mapplethorpe wonders if the quest has caused his death. It's not an easy read but it's a fascinating one, as name upon name appears of the people who made the 60's what it was in the fields of art, music and writing.
Now I must read Rimbaud, who Patti Smith reverences, and references continually.
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on 30 January 2011
Just Kids I was interested in the Kindle version of this but no photographs are included due to copyright reasons.
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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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I loved this. Slightly baffled by people who don't know who Robert Mapplethorpe is and who didn't realise this was a book about her relationship with him and how she believed he fed into her artistic process and vice versa. I loved the style of the book and thought it was fascinating. It gave me a real sense of how Smith perceived the frankly amazing times in which she lived and the company she kept. I loved the poetic nature of the writing.
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on 25 September 2011
I enjoyed this book and read it as part of my book club but was very disappointed to see that the Kindle version had none of the pictures in it which the text version has. For this particular book which is about Patti Smith's relationship with the photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe, the photos are an intrinsic part and so I felt frustrated and slightly cheated that they weren't included in my version as they are referred to many times throughout the text.

It's wrong to sell this type of book on Kindle without a big warning sign. Had I known this beforehand I wouldn't have bought it on Kindle.
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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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