Posted in Staff Pick Books

Staff Pick: Just Kids by Patti Smith


Patti Smith won a National Book Award for this eloquently crafted glimpse at the phenomenal friendship she shared with the late artist and controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.  When she moved to Brooklyn in her early twenties, she was soon homeless, jobless and hungry.  Through chance, the two strangers met and survived together, fueled by a passion for art and writing, sharing a big city’s path of initiation.  The book is enriched by photos and facsimiles of notes they wrote to each other.

Smith captures the late 60s/early 70s NYC scene at the quirky Chelsea Hotel, where she and Mapplethorpe lived and interacted with William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.  Bookstores from pre-Amazon.com days helped Smith scrimp by.  At Max’s Kansas City, the pair eventually gained access to Andy Warhol’s table,  in stark contrast to their scrappy daily existence, supporting and prodding each other towards later success.

Most affecting in this tender and tough elegy, however, is Patti’s abiding belief in Mapplethorpe’s genius, no matter how painful to her.  “Before Robert died, in March of 1989, I promised him I would write our story, a story ultimately no one could tell but me.”  She has written a love letter to New York,  to naive eccentrics, to hustlers and to those trying to ascend to fame while maintaining humanity.

Just Kids by Patti Smith is shelved in the Browsing Area by the author’s last name.

-Recommended by Liz Bagley, Director of Library Services

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