JUST KIDS won the National Book Award last year, and though I don’t and wish I read more books, I’m quick to agree with that pedigree.
The book is about the life Patti Smith shared with Robert Mapplethorpe, while the two of them grew up and became artists in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s. Interspersed are a few photos of them together, first as a couple of 19 year olds hanging out, evolving into the first batches of photographs that Mapplethorpe took as works of art.
I couldn’t put this book down, because it was a joy to be lost in Patti Smith’s romanticized NYC, to feel her anxiety as a growing artist clamoring for her voice, and to feel that I was striding those cold streets in her skinny bones and Caprezios.
It’s wonderful to fall in love with Robert Mapplethorpe through Patti Smith’s poetic words.
I always thought Patti Smith was kind of full of it, but it’s fun to read her references to obscure literature, to pedantically namedrop her and Mapplethorpe’s famous and infamous friends, foes and patrons, and to continue her wide-eyed, fan girl fever for the artists she admired and emulated.
I’m deep in the rabbit hole of the Smith & Mappethorpe friendship-affair-companionship. I finished the book on a sunny but chilly Sunday in April, lying in the grass and I let myself cry when Smith finished her biography with an elegy.