I’m having a great time reading an eclectic mix of books lately,
and that includes JUST KIDS by Patti Smith.
She promised Robert Mapplethorpe she’d tell their story,
and she does.
From the inside flap (because it’s so beautiful and spot-on):
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 in 1969, the pair set up
camp at the infamous Hotel Chelsea. 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, 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.
I was blown away by the circumstances they faced together,
the literal cold and hunger, and their ability to scratch out an existence
on their own terms.
And because I’ve long been a fan of the Chelsea Hotel (after learning
it was where Bob Dylan stayed up all night writing "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"
for his wife), I particularly enjoyed the section on Patti and Robert’s time there.
I even dug out my copy of this photographic essay,
CHELSEA HOTEL By Claudio Edinger,
and read up on some of the people Patti mentioned in her book.
(I’m a bit torn about what to call the hotel since Patti refers to it as the
Hotel Chelsea but the other book calls it the Chelsea Hotel, as does
Bob Dylan in his song, Sara).
I highly recommend JUST KIDS. It’s beautifully written (and gave me a
whole new way of listening to Horses).
If you’ve ever loved and lost someone, this book will speak to you.
And if you’ve ever held dreams but despaired of reaching them,
JUST KIDS will speak to you plus give you a kick in the ass.