11 reviews

Just Kids
by Patti Smith

Published: 2010-01-01
Hardcover : 304 pages
14 members reading this now
35 clubs reading this now
11 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 11 members

It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly ...

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It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max's Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous?the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.

Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2010: Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe weren't always famous, but they always thought they would be. They found each other, adrift but determined, on the streets of New York City in the late '60s and made a pact to keep each other afloat until they found their voices--or the world was ready to hear them. Lovers first and then friends as Mapplethorpe discovered he was gay, they divided their dimes between art supplies and Coney Island hot dogs. Mapplethorpe was quicker to find his metier, with a Polaroid and then a Hasselblad, but Smith was the first to fame, transformed, to her friend's delight, from a poet into a rock star. (Mapplethorpe soon became famous too--and notorious--before his death from AIDS in 1989.) Smith's memoir of their friendship, Just Kids, is tender and artful, open-eyed but surprisingly decorous, with the oracular style familiar from her anthems like "Because the Night," "Gloria," and "Dancing Barefoot" balanced by her powers of observation and memory for everyday details like the price of automat sandwiches and the shabby, welcoming fellow bohemians of the Chelsea Hotel, among whose ranks these baby Rimbauds found their way. --Tom Nissley

Editorial Review

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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

How would Patti Smith and Robert Mapelthorpe's relationship be viewed today?
Do you think Robert's S&M photos degraded his art? Why or why not?
Did you think Patti was stupid for being nice to people trying to get with Robert?
by MichelleJMcIntyre (see profile) 09/11/11

1. What is art? 2. Is an artist truer if he/she is obsessed with having to create?3. Could I give up everything to create art?4.. Is art which depicts sexuality in any form more, or less, valid?
5. If a piece of artwork is not something you'd want to exhibit in your own home, is it bad art?
by Chapterscam (see profile) 02/24/11

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Dress up ideas
by MichelleJMcIntyre (see profile) 09/11/11
Invite people to wear something from the late 60s or early 70s to the book club gathering.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Susan E. (see profile) 09/11/20

by Athmika P. (see profile) 07/27/19

by Stephani M. (see profile) 06/16/19

  "Just Kids"by Lynn P. (see profile) 06/24/13

  "Beautifully written"by Helen L. (see profile) 12/03/12

Patti Smith's memories of her time growing into fame in NY with Robert Mapplethorpe demonstrated her love and compassion for someone she didn't always understand but never failed to support. It revealed... (read more)

  "Audio version a good alternative"by Melissa D. (see profile) 08/22/12

I knew I had no interest in this story, but one benefit of a book club is to be introduced to books you wouldn't choose yourself. I listened to the CDs read by the author and was glad I did. I found... (read more)

  "A fascinating look at creativity."by Corrine S. (see profile) 07/19/12

A biography that reads like poetry. You may not know or like the individuals in this book, but Smith writes about them and her life eloquently.

  "You don't have to be a Patti Smith fan to love this book"by Samantha M. (see profile) 10/29/11

  "An Examination of Unconditional Love in the Era of Flower Children"by Michelle M. (see profile) 09/11/11

Although the book starts of a bit slow with two many insignificant details painstakingly scattered like a bag of spilled marbles, it's an incredible glimpse into the world of artists and famous rockers... (read more)

  "What was the point?"by Nadja J. (see profile) 03/01/11

Patti Smith at once draws you in and pushes you away. She narrates seemingly endless details about people you may or may not know of, but doesn't really tell you how she FELT during this time. She glosses... (read more)

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