Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Talk about your dark horses.  Patti Smith writes her first non-fiction book and she succeeds beyond expectation, ultimately winning the National Book Award.  As you may know, Just Kids is a love letter to Robert Mapplethorpe, her dearest friend, lover, and constant companion.  Knowing Mapplethorpe primarily for his work and the controversy it created two decades ago here in CinciTucky, I was happy to learn more about the man.  Patti humanized him and was honest about his faults.  How she described their lives, together and apart, was constantly touching.

More than just the Patti-and-Robert show, Just Kids is also a love letter to her art.  Admittedly, I couldn't always follow her when she talked about art--hers, that of others, and art as a philosophy--but it was obvious to me how much it means to her and how much faith she has in its power.  

The other recipient of a Patti-penned mash note is New York City.  As in good fiction, she portrays the City as its own character throughout the book.  Were I to happen across a time machine, one of the first places I would travel would be to New York when you could be poor and still live there, a condition that is almost unthinkable now.  Clearly, the City and the ability to live in it while struggling to make a living, to make art, to make a life, had long, lasting effects on for Patti who has continued to succeed on her own terms for the last 40 years.

I was terribly pleased to receive my copy of Just Kids from my dear friend Rocky who had Patti inscribe it to me "with all good wishes".  Many thanks and many happy returns.

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