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Just Kids

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Overview

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, ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Patti Smith has been lauded as the grandmother of punk, but no trace of anachronism can cling to the singer/author/lyricist who gave us Horses and Babel. In this raw, tender memoir, she retrieves prose snapshots of her relationship with "the artist of my life," Robert Mapplethorpe. In the late sixties, when the two became lovers, roommates, and fellow pranksters, neither was famous. With fondness and a keen sense of observation, Smith recalls their overlapping lives and lifelong mutual affection. In hardcover, Just Kids earned praise even from self-admitted skeptics; in paperback, it should win even more friends.

Associated Press Staff
“A touching tale of love and devotion.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“An utterly charming, captivating, intimate portrait of a late 1960s and early 1970s period of intense artistic ferment in downtown Manhattan significantly shaped and keenly observed by rock firebrand Smith.”
Tampa Tribune
“[JUST KIDS] is funny and sad but always exhilarating.”
Austin American-Statesman
“Patti Smith’s telling of the years she spent with Robert Mapplethorpe is full of optimism sprinkled with humor...JUST KIDS...is sorely lacking in irony or cynicism; Smith’s worldview is infectious. She’s a jumble of influences, but that’s part of her charm.”
NPR Boston
“Remarkable, evocative... JUST KIDS is more than just a gift to [Smith’s] ex-lover; it’s a gift to everyone who has ever been touched by their art, and to everyone who’s ever been in love. Like the best of Smith’s music and Mapplethorpe’s art, this book is haunting and unforgettable.”
Los Angeles Times
“A moving portrait of the artist as a young woman, and a vibrant profile of Smith’s onetime boyfriend and lifelong muse, Robert Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989...JUST KIDS is ultimately a wonderful portal into the dawn of Smith’s art.”
Chicago Tribune
“The most compelling memoir by a rock artist since Bob Dylan’s ‘Chronicles: Volume One,’ written with intimacy and grace....”
Time Out New York
“In the end, [JUST KIDS is] not just an ode to Mapplethorpe, but a love letter to New York City’s ‘70s art scene itself.”
USA Today
“[JUST KIDS] offers a revealing account of the fears and insecurities harbored by even the most incendiary artists, as well as their capacity for reverence and tenderness.”
Washington Post
“One of the best books ever written on becoming an artist...Jesus may have died for somebody’s sins, but Patti Smith lives and writes and sings for all of us.”
Bloomberg.com
“JUST KIDS describes [Smith and Mapplethorpe’s] ascent with a forthright sweetness that will ring true to anyone who knows her work.”
Dallas Morning News
“To read JUST KIDS is to be struck by how powerfully the two, especially Smith, believed in the power of art....Despite her music’s angry clamor, despite his sometimes revolting images, Smith and Mapplethorpe retain, in her telling, a primal, childlike innocence.”
Booklist
“A revelation. In a spellbinding memoir as notable for its restraint as for its lucidity, its wit as well as its grace, Smith tells the story of how she and Robert Mapplethorpe found each other... beautifully crafted, vivid, and indelible.”
New York Times Book Review
“Terrifically evocative and splendidly titled...the most spellbinding and diverting portrait of funky-but-chic New York in the late ’60s and early ’70s that any alumnus has committed to print....This enchanting book is a reminder that not all youthful vainglory is silly; sometimes it’s preparation.”
Newsday
“A remarkable book --sweet and charming and many other words you wouldn’t expect to apply to a punk-rock icon.”
Elle
” A story of art, identity, devotion, discovery, and love, the book is [Smith’s] first prose work...[it] conjures up the passionate collaboration—as lovers, friends, soul mates, and creators—that she and Mapplethorpe embarked on from the summer they met in Brooklyn in 1967.”
Boston Globe
“Smith lovingly depicts the denizens of the Chelsea Hotel - is that Janis Joplin at the bar? - and the rock club CBGB, all the while pondering how to be an uncompromising artist who nonetheless needs to pay the rent.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“Smith’s writing about her early days with Mapplethorpe is fervid and incantatory but never falls into incoherence.”
BookForum
“Deeply affecting...a vivid portrayal of a bygone New York that could support a countercultural artistic firmament...the power of this book comes from [Smith’s] ability to recall lucid memories in straightforward prose.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Captivating....a poignant requiem...and a radiant celebration of life. Grade: A.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Astonishing on many levels, most notably for Smith’s lapidary prose....[JUST KIDS] is simply one of the best memoirs to be published in recent years: inspiring, sad, wise and beautifully written.”
The Rumpus
“Just Kids shows how Smith integrated the romance of her twenty-year friendship with Mapplethorpe with her historical preoccupations, elevating them to an almost sacred status. The past, for Smith, has always driven her life forward. If only we could all be so free-spirited.”
New York Magazine
“A shockingly beautiful book...a classic, a romance about becoming an artist in the city, written in a spare, simple style of boyhood memoirs like Frank Conroy’s ‘Stop Time.’”
Salon.com
“Patti Smith’s memoir of her youth with Robert Mapplethorpe testifies to a rare and ferocious innocence...’Just Kids’ is a book utterly lacking in irony or sophisticated cynicism.”
The Oprah Magazine O
“Funny, fascinating, oddly tender.”
Village Voice
“Composed of incandescent sentences more revelatory than anything from Patti Smith’s poems or songs, her romantic memoir also reveals what blunt narrative instruments the earlier career bios of her and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe have been.”
Michael Stipe
“[Just Kids] reminds us that innocence, utopian ideals, beauty and revolt are enlightenment’s guiding stars in the human journey. Her book recalls, without blinking or faltering, a collective memory — one that guides us through the present and into the future.”
Top 10 Books of 2010 People
“Reading rocker Smith’s account of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, it’s hard not to believe in fate. How else to explain the chance encounter that threw them together, allowing both to blossom? Quirky and spellbinding.”
Janet Maslin's top 10 books of 2010
“The most enchantingly evocative memoir of funky-but-chic New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s that any alumnus has yet committed to print.”
Matthew Weiner
“Poetically written and vividly remembered. [Smith] reminded me of the idealism of art.”
Don Imus
“One of the best things I’ve ever read in my life.”
Maureen Corrigan's favorite books of 2010
“Sometimes there is justice in the world. That was my first thought when I heard that Patti Smith had won the National Book Award this fall for her glorious memoir, Just Kids.”
Clive Davis
“More than 30 years after its release, Horses still has the power to shock and inspire young musicians to express themselves with unbridled passion. Now she brings the same raw, lyrical quality to her first book of prose.”
Elle
” A story of art, identity, devotion, discovery, and love, the book is [Smith’s] first prose work...[it] conjures up the passionate collaboration--as lovers, friends, soul mates, and creators--that she and Mapplethorpe embarked on from the summer they met in Brooklyn in 1967.”
Associated Press Staff
“A touching tale of love and devotion.”
Tom Carson
Just Kids is the most spellbinding and diverting portrait of funky-but-chic New York in the late '60s and early '70s that any alumnus has committed to print. The tone is at once flinty and hilarious, which figures: [Smith's] always been both tough and funny, two real saving graces in an artist this prone to excess. What's sure to make her account a cornucopia for cultural historians, however, is that the atmosphere, personalities and mores of the time are so astutely observed.
—The New York Times
Elizabeth Hand
…beautifully written…More than a 1970s bohemian rhapsody, Just Kids is one of the best books ever written on becoming an artist—not the race for online celebrity and corporate sponsorship that often passes for artistic success these days, but the far more powerful, often difficult journey toward the ecstatic experience of capturing radiance of imagination on a page or stage or photographic paper.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
…tenderly evocative…It's possible to come away from Just Kids with an intact image of the title's childlike kindred spirits who listened to Tim Hardin's delicate love songs, wondered if they could afford the extra 10 cents for chocolate milk and treasured each geode, tambourine or silver skull they shared, never wanting what they couldn't have or unduly caring what the future might bring. If it sometimes sounds like a fairy tale, it also conveys a heartbreakingly clear idea of why Ms. Smith is entitled to tell one. So she enshrines her early days with Mapplethorpe this way: "We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until, exhausted, we fell into bed." They sound like Hansel and Gretel, living in a state of shared delight, blissfully unaware of what awaited on the path ahead.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In 1967, 21-year-old singer–song writer Smith, determined to make art her life and dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities in Philadelphia to live this life, left her family behind for a new life in Brooklyn. When she discovered that the friends with whom she was to have lived had moved, she soon found herself homeless, jobless, and hungry. Through a series of events, she met a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe who changed her life—and in her typically lyrical and poignant manner Smith describes the start of a romance and lifelong friendship with this man: “It was the summer Coltrane died. Flower children raised their arms... and Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, and the summer of love....” This beautifully crafted love letter to her friend (who died in 1989) functions as a memento mori of a relationship fueled by a passion for art and writing. Smith transports readers to what seemed like halcyon days for art and artists in New York as she shares tales of the denizens of Max's Kansas City, the Hotel Chelsea, Scribner's, Brentano's, and Strand bookstores. In the lobby of the Chelsea, where she and Mapplethorpe lived for many years, she got to know William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Johnny Winter. Most affecting in this tender and tough memoir, however, is her deep love for Mapplethorpe and her abiding belief in his genius. Smith's elegant eulogy helps to explain the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe's life and work. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
Musician, poet and visual artist Smith (Trois, 2008, etc.) chronicles her intense life with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe during the 1960s and '70s, when both artists came of age in downtown New York. Both born in 1946, Smith and Mapplethorpe would become widely celebrated-she for merging poetry with rock 'n' roll in her punk-rock performances, he as the photographer who brought pornography into the realm of art. Upon meeting in the summer of 1967, they were hungry, lonely and gifted youths struggling to find their way and their art. Smith, a gangly loser and college dropout, had attended Bible school in New Jersey where she took solace in the poetry of Rimbaud. Mapplethorpe, a former altar boy turned LSD user, had grown up in middle-class Long Island. Writing with wonderful immediacy, Smith tells the affecting story of their entwined young lives as lovers, friends and muses to one another. Eating day-old bread and stew in dumpy East Village apartments, they forged fierce bonds as soul mates who were at their happiest when working together. To make money Smith clerked in bookstores, and Mapplethorpe hustled on 42nd Street. The author colorfully evokes their days at the shabbily elegant Hotel Chelsea, late nights at Max's Kansas City and their growth and early celebrity as artists, with Smith winning initial serious attention at a St. Mark's Poetry Project reading and Mapplethorpe attracting lovers and patrons who catapulted him into the arms of high society. The book abounds with stories about friends, including Allen Ginsberg, Janis Joplin, William Burroughs, Sam Shepard, Gregory Corso and other luminaries, and it reveals Smith's affection for the city-the "gritty innocence" of thecouple's beloved Coney Island, the "open atmosphere" and "simple freedom" of Washington Square. Despite separations, the duo remained friends until Mapplethorpe's death in 1989. "Nobody sees as we do, Patti," he once told her. Riveting and exquisitely crafted. Nationwide author appearances
Associated Press
“A touching tale of love and devotion.”
People
“Reading rocker Smith’s account of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, it’s hard not to believe in fate. How else to explain the chance encounter that threw them together, allowing both to blossom? Quirky and spellbinding.”
Janet Maslin
“The most enchantingly evocative memoir of funky-but-chic New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s that any alumnus has yet committed to print.”
Top 10 Books of 2010 - People Magazine
"Reading rocker Smith’s account of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, it’s hard not to believe in fate. How else to explain the chance encounter that threw them together, allowing both to blossom? Quirky and spellbinding."
Maureen Corrigan
“Sometimes there is justice in the world. That was my first thought when I heard that Patti Smith had won the National Book Award this fall for her glorious memoir, Just Kids.”
Boston - NPR
"Remarkable, evocative... JUST KIDS is more than just a gift to [Smith’s] ex-lover; it’s a gift to everyone who has ever been touched by their art, and to everyone who’s ever been in love. Like the best of Smith’s music and Mapplethorpe’s art, this book is haunting and unforgettable."
Library Journal
When Smith arrived in New York in 1966 without prospects or possessions, she slept in a park until she met Robert ¬Mapplethorpe. After a series of cheap apartments, they moved into the Hotel Chelsea where lived now-famous artists, writers, and rock musicians. While some readers may be offended by language and sexual descriptions, Smith’s memoir of her years with Mapplethorpe is a tender testament to love. (LJ11/1/11)

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal
Singer/songwriter/poet Smith, also known as the "grandmother of punk rock," recalls her early days in New York City when she was searching for a vocation and a direction in her life. Most of all, this is a recollection of her deep, intimate friendship with late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–89), a fellow hungry and aspiring creator whom she calls "the artist of my life." It also is a vivid depiction of life in late 1960s New York and the famous people she knew (for example, Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg). Smith's narrative is poetic and beautifully composed, and she herself reads in a stoic and reflective voice that is mesmerizing. Highly recommended. [The Ecco: HarperCollins hc, LJ Xpress Reviews, 11/20/09, was an LJ and a New York Times best seller.—Ed.]—Phillip Oliver, Univ.of North Alabama Lib., Florence
The Barnes & Noble Review

I'd say it's about time that somebody did for the Catholics what Steven Beeber, in 2007's The Heebie Jeebies at CBGB's, did for the Jews. Punk rock, argued Beeber, especially New York punk rock, is a Jewish thing -- in support of which contention he adduced the wit of Lenny Bruce, the poetics of Lou Reed, the dialectic of the Ramones (trust me, there was one), and the complex, fabricated libido of Blondie. Pace Beeber, there was another socio-religious identity at work in New York's 1970s underculture: Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, like Jim Carroll and Andy Warhol, were tribally Catholic. (As of course was sufferin' Jack Kerouac, the grandaddy of them all, with his sacramental visions of homo viator.) And after reading Just Kids, Smith's memoir of the life she and Mapplethorpe shared in pursuit of their respective vocations, you'll be aware that this is something more than a coincidence.

Can anyone beat Patti Smith for rocking-ness? I imagine some white-haired professor or illuminatus, three hundred years hence, being asked by his curious students to summarize the brief twentieth-century cultural phenomenon known as "rock'n'roll." "Rock'n'roll?" he says, pleased. "Well, it couldn't be simpler, luckily for us. It begins and ends with Patti Smith's 'Rock'n'Roll Nigger'". A snap of the fingers, a hologram buzzes to life -- Patti mid-air in 3-D, the grave stoic head on the electrically scrawny body, one shoulder exposed, spitting "Baby was a black sheep, Baby was a whore! You know she got big, well, she's gonna get bigg-UH!..." He beams about him. The class is agog. The case is made.

Andyet Just Kids is about as un-rock'n'roll as it's possible for a book to be while still including an appearance by Gregory Corso. ("Gregory lit a cigarette and read from my pile of abandoned poems, drifting off, making a little burn mark on the arm of the chair. I poured some of my Nescafé on it.") The book is an act of recall in the Augustinian mode, closer to Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain or Thérèse of Lisieux's Story of a Soul than to, I don't know, David Lee Roth's Crazy From The Heat. The language is solemn, every word weighed, and the mood devout, even if Smith's saints and martyrs are a gang of heretical Romantic burnouts. Arthur Rimbaud, in particular, is a supernatural consolation to the young Patti as she struggles on the assembly lines of 1960s South Jersey. "Rimbaud held the keys to a mystical language that I devoured even as I could not fully decipher it. My unrequited love for him was as real to me as anything I had experienced. At the factory where I had labored with a hard-edged, illiterate group of women, I was harassed in his name."

Arriving in Manhattan in the summer of 1967, penniless and refusing to take off her raincoat, Smith meets the young Robert Mapplethorpe, all charm. They bond over an eighteen-dollar Persian necklace: Smith compares it to a scapula, prompting Mapplethorpe to ask if she's Catholic. "No," replies Smith, "I just like Catholic things." Mapplethorpe, an ex-altar boy, confides that he used to love swinging the censer. And so begin two decades of spiritual comradeship: Smith and Mapplethorpe, embryos in New York, fall in love. They bounce around the underground for ages, evolving away, Smith struggling with her poetry and songs, "meditations on the death of Mayakovsky and ruminations about Bob Dylan," Mapplethorpe struggling mainly with himself. Watching Jim Morrison do his thing with the Doors one night, Smith finds herself not transported but unexpectedly sober, "in a state of cold hyperawareness." From out of her then-anonymity she appraises Morrison; she understands him. "I felt both kinship and contempt for him." It will be years before she discovers that she herself is a rock'n'roll star - but Just Kids is full of these auguries.

Mapplethorpe makes things, he does drawings, he pursues obsessions: occultism, gay magazines. On a slow Sunday afternoon he takes a soldering iron to the groin of a Madonna. He discovers hustling and photography at more or less the same time: the camera's lens is freighted thereafter with his trademark heavy eroticism, flesh-worship thickly coiled. One night Smith comes home to find him in the talons of a bad LSD trip, "staring into an oval mirror, flanked by a black whip and a devil's mask he had spray-painted months before... The devil was gaining on him, morphing his features, which like the mask were distorted and blood red."

Smith, meanwhile, picking up confidence, picking up musicians, is working towards her own initiatory piece of blasphemy. "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine...": the shivering first line of 1975's Horses (cover shot by Mapplethorpe). She calls it "a declaration of existence." And Rimbaud and Corso and Mayakovsky, and the skittering prosody of Bob Dylan, and the drunken tremblings of Jack Kerouac, and her muttering, praying girlhood with its "small torrent of words" are all united at last in her style, her "babelogue."

Robert Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in 1989, by which point Smith was deep into semi-retirement and her marriage to Fred "Sonic" Smith, ex-guitarist for the MC5. If one senses at moments in Just Kids her concern that a destructive acceleration had overtaken his life, and perhaps imperiled his soul, the two were nonetheless friends until the end. Passionate friends, which is really the defining image of this somber and rather lovely book: two strange Catholic children, quite un-at-home in the world, treating each other with heroic tenderness, heroic generosity.--James Parker

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060936228
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/2/2010
  • Pages: 278
  • Sales rank: 31,862
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Patti Smith

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary mergence of poetry and rock. Her seminal album Horses, bearing Robert Mapplethorpe’s renowned photograph, has been hailed as one of the top 100 albums of all time. Her books include Witt, Babel, Woolgathering, The Coral Sea, and Auguries of Innocence. In 2005, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Smith the prestigious title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honor awarded to an artist by the French Republic. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Smith married the late Fred Sonic Smith in Detroit in 1980. They had a son, Jackson, and a daughter, Jesse. Smith resides in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Just Kids



By Patti Smith

Ecco


Copyright © 2011 Patti Smith All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-093622-8



Chapter One

When I was very young, my mother took me for walks in Humboldt Park, along the edge of the Prairie River. I have vague memories, like impressions on glass plates, of an old boathouse, a circular band shell, an arched stone bridge. The narrows of the river emptied into a wide lagoon and I saw upon its surface a singular miracle. A long curving neck rose from a dress of white plumage.
Swan, my mother said, sensing my excitement. It pattered the bright water, flapping its great wings, and lifted into the sky.
The word alone hardly attested to its magnificence nor conveyed the emotion it produced. The sight of it generated an urge I had no words for, a desire to speak of the swan, to say something of its whiteness, the explosive nature of its movement, and the slow beating of its wings.
The swan became one with the sky. I struggled to find words to describe my own sense of it. Swan, I repeated, not entirely satisfied,
and I felt a twinge, a curious yearning, imperceptible to passersby, my mother, the trees, or the clouds.
I was born on a Monday, in the North Side of Chicago during the Great Blizzard of 1946. I came along a day too soon, as babies born on New Year's Eve left the hospital with a new refrigerator. Despite my mother's effort to hold me in, she went into heavy labor as the taxi crawled along Lake Michigan through a vortex of snow and wind. By my father's account, I arrived a long skinny thing with bronchial pneumonia, and he kept me alive by holding me over a steaming washtub.
My sister Linda followed during yet another blizzard in 1948.
By necessity I was obliged to measure up quickly. My mother took in ironing as I sat on the stoop of our rooming house waiting for the iceman and the last of the horse-drawn wagons. He gave me slivers of ice wrapped in brown paper. I would slip one in my pocket for my baby sister, but when I later reached for it, I discov-
ered it was gone.
When my mother became pregnant with my brother, Todd,
we left our cramped quarters in Logan Square and migrated to Germantown, Pennsylvania. For the next few years we lived in temporary housing set up for ser-vicemen and their children—
whitewashed barracks overlooking an abandoned field alive with wildflowers. We called the field The Patch, and in summertime the grown-ups would sit and talk, smoke cigarettes, and pass around jars of dandelion wine while we children played. My mother taught us the games of her childhood: Statues, Red Rover, and Simon Says.
We made daisy chains to adorn our necks and crown our heads. In the evenings we collected fireflies in mason jars, extracting their lights and making rings for our fingers.
My mother taught me to pray; she taught me the prayer her mother taught her. Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. At nightfall, I knelt before my little bed as she stood, with her ever-present cigarette, listening as I recited after her. I wished noth-
ing more than to say my prayers, yet these words troubled me and I plagued her with questions. What is the soul? What color is it? I suspected my soul, being mischievous, might slip away while I was dreaming and fail to return. I did my best not to fall asleep, to keep it inside of me where it belonged.
Perhaps to satisfy my curiosity, my mother enrolled me in Sunday school. We were taught by rote, Bible verses and the words of Jesus.
Afterward we stood in line and were rewarded with a spoonful of comb honey. There was only one spoon in the jar to serve many coughing children. I instinctively shied from the spoon but I swiftly accepted the notion of God. It pleased me to imagine a presence above us, in continual motion, like liquid stars.
Not contented with my child's prayer, I soon petitioned my mother to let me make my own. I was relieved when I no longer had to repeat the words If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take and could say instead what was in my heart. Thus freed, I would lie in my bed by the coal stove vigorously mouthing long let-
ters to God. I was not much of a sleeper and I must have vexed him with my endless vows, visions, and schemes. But as time passed I came to experience a different kind of prayer, a silent one, requiring more listening than speaking.
My small torrent of words dissipated into an elaborate sense of expanding and receding. It was my entrance into the radiance of imagination. This process was especially magnified within the fevers of influenza, measles, chicken pox, and mumps. I had them all and with each I was privileged with a new level of awareness. Lying deep within myself, the symmetry of a snowflake spinning above me, inten-
sifying through my lids, I seized a most worthy souvenir, a shard of heaven's kaleidoscope.

My love of prayer was gradually rivaled by my love for the book. I would sit at my mother's feet watching her drink coffee and smoke cigarettes with a book on her lap. Her absorption intrigued me. Though not yet in nursery school, I liked to look at her books,
feel their paper, and lift the tissues from the frontispieces. I wanted to know what was in them, what captured her attention so deeply. When my mother discovered that I had hidden her crimson copy of Foxe 's Book of Martyrs beneath my pillow, with hopes of absorbing its mean-
ing, she sat me down and began the laborious process of teaching me to read. With great effort we moved through Mother Goose to Dr.
Seuss. When I advanced past the need for instruction, I was permit-
ted to join her on our overstuffed sofa, she reading The Shoes of the Fisherman and I The Red Shoes.
I was completely smitten by the book. I longed to read them all,
and the things I read of produced new yearnings. Perhaps I might go off to Africa and offer my ser-vices to Albert Schweitzer or, decked in my coonskin cap and powder horn, I might defend the -people like Davy Crockett. I could scale the Himalayas and live in a cave spinning a prayer wheel, keeping the earth turning. But the urge to express myself was my strongest desire, and my siblings were my first eager coconspirators in the harvesting of my imagination. They listened attentively to my stories willingly performed in my plays, and fought valiantly in my wars.
With them in my corner, anything seemed possible.
In the months of spring, I was often ill and so condemned to my bed, obliged to hear my comrades at play through the open window.
In the months of summer, the younger ones reported bedside how much of our wild field had been secured in the face of the enemy. We lost many a battle in my absence and my weary troops would gather around my bed and I would offer a benediction from the child sol-
dier's bible, A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.
In the winter, we built snow forts and I led our campaign, serving as general, making maps and drawing out strategies as we attacked and retreated. We fought the wars of our Irish grandfathers, the orange and the green. We wore the orange yet knew nothing of its meaning. They were simply our colors. When attention flagged, I would draw a truce and visit my friend Stephanie. She was convalescing from an illness I didn't really understand, a form of leukemia. She was older than I, per-
haps twelve to my eight. I didn't have much to say to her and was perhaps little comfort, yet she seemed to delight in my presence. I believe that what really drew me to her was not my good heart, but a fascination with her belongings. Her older sister would hang up my wet garments and bring us cocoa and graham crackers on a tray. Stephanie would lie back on a mound of pillows and I would tell tall tales and read her comics.
I marveled at her comic-book collection, stacks of them earned from a childhood spent in bed, every issue of Superman, Little Lulu, Classic Comics, and House of Mystery. In her old cigar box were all the talis-
manic charms of 1953: a roulette wheel, a typewriter, an ice skater, the red Mobil winged horse, the Eiffel Tower, a ballet slipper, and charms in the shape of all forty-eight states. I could play with them endlessly and sometimes, if she had doubles, she would give one to me.
I had a secret compartment near my bed, beneath the floorboards.
There I kept my stash—winnings from marbles, trading cards, reli-
gious artifacts I rescued from Catholic trash bins: old holy cards, worn scapulars, plaster saints with chipped hands and feet. I put my loot from Stephanie there. Something told me I shouldn't take presents from a sick girl, but I did and hid them away, somewhat ashamed.
I had promised to visit her on Valentine 's Day, but I didn't. My duties as general to my troop of siblings and neighboring boys were very taxing and there was heavy snow to negotiate. It was a harsh winter that year. The following afternoon, I abandoned my post to sit with her and have cocoa. She was very quiet and begged me to stay even as she drifted off to sleep.
I rummaged through her jewel box. It was pink and when you opened it a ballerina turned like a sugarplum fairy. I was so taken with a particular skating pin that I slipped it in my mitten. I sat frozen next to her for a long time, leaving silently as she slept. I buried the pin amongst my stash. I slept fitfully through the night, feeling great remorse for what I had done. In the morning I was too ill to go to school and stayed in bed, ridden with guilt. I vowed to return the pin and ask her to forgive me.
The following day was my sister Linda's birthday, but there was to be no party for her. Stephanie had taken a turn for the worse and my father and mother went to a hospital to give blood. When they returned my father was crying and my mother knelt down beside me to tell me Stephanie had died. Her grief was quickly replaced with concern as she felt my forehead. I was burning with fever.
Our apartment was quarantined. I had scarlet fever. In the fif-
ties it was much feared since it often developed into a fatal form of rheumatic fever. The door to our apartment was painted yel-
low. Confined to bed, I could not attend Stephanie 's funeral. Her mother brought me her stacks of comic books and her cigar box of charms. Now I had everything, all her treasures, but I was far too ill to even look at them. It was then that I experienced the weight of sin, even a sin as small as a stolen skater pin. I reflected on the fact that no matter how good I aspired to be, I was never going to achieve perfection. I also would never receive Stephanie 's for-
giveness. But as I lay there night after night, it occurred to me that it might be possible to speak with her by praying to her, or at least ask God to intercede on my behalf.
Robert was very taken with this story, and sometimes on a cold, lan-
guorous Sunday he would beg me to recount it. "Tell me the Stephanie story," he would say. I would spare no details on our long mornings beneath the covers, reciting tales of my childhood, its sorrow and magic,
as we tried to pretend we weren't hungry. And always, when I got to the part where I opened the jewelry box, he would cry, "Patti, no . . ."
We used to laugh at our small selves, saying that I was a bad girl trying to be good and that he was a good boy trying to be bad.
Through the years these roles would reverse, then reverse again, until we came to accept our dual natures. We contained opposing princi-
ples, light and dark.
I was a dreamy somnambulant child. I vexed my teachers with my precocious reading ability paired with an inability to apply it to anything they deemed practical. One by one they noted in my reports that I daydreamed far too much, was always somewhere else. Where that somewhere was I cannot say, but it often landed me in the corner sitting on a high stool in full view of all in a conical paper hat.
I would later make large detailed drawings of these humorously humiliating moments for Robert. He delighted in them, seeming to appreciate all the qualities that repelled or alienated me from others.
Through this visual dialogue my youthful memories became his.
I was unhappy when we were evicted from The Patch and had to pack up to begin a new life in southern New Jersey. My mother gave birth to a fourth child whom we all pitched in to raise, a sickly though sunny little girl named Kimberly. I felt isolated and disconnected in the surrounding swamps, peach orchards, and pig farms. I immersed myself in books and in the design of an encyclopedia that only got as far as the entry for Simón Bolívar. My father introduced me to science fiction and for a time I joined him in investigating UFO activity in the skies over the local square-dance hall, as he continually questioned the source of our existence.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Just Kids by Patti Smith Copyright © 2011 by Patti Smith. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Monday's Children 1

Just Kids 33

Hotel Chelsea 89

Separate Ways Together 211

Holding Hands With God 261

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 302 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(142)

4 Star

(81)

3 Star

(42)

2 Star

(17)

1 Star

(20)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 309 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 9, 2011

    It is NOT the entire book

    I find it to be wrong to not clearly state that an e-book is not the same/complete as the paper edition. This e-book does not contain a single picture, of which there are many, in both the hardback and the newly released paperback. I may have chosen to buy it anyway, but I feel there should be full disclosure prior to purchase.
    The book itself is excellent.

    21 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2010

    An honest, sweet tribute to a friend

    Ever since I was a teenager in the '70s, I have found Patti Smith to be an intriguing woman. There was no one like her then and there is still no one like her. The new book "Just Kids" details her earlier years in New York City, where she meets Robert Mapplethorpe and they begin their journey together trying to make it as artists. Unlike most autobiographical books written by rock stars or other celebrities, this is extremely well written and not a self-indulgent publicity ploy. It is an interesting look into friendship and loyalty as circumstances and relationships change. Even as their romance subsides, Patti and Robert still remain lifelong friends until his passing. While Robert was a much more controversial figure than Patti, I think this book sheds a lot of insight into both of their personalities. Definitely a great read for anyone who is Patti Smith fan. One of the best of its kind that I have read in a good while. Glad I snapped it up quickly and I do hope she picks up where she left off here.

    16 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    Just Kids is a fascinating autobiography

    One almost needs to have an art education to fully comprehend this story. Patti Smith's erudite tale is chock full of literary, poetic and artistic references. But, no matter. I like a challenge, and I will pursue each and every reference, from Baudelaire to Beau Geste to Bertolt Brecht to Corso and Mayakovsky. It's good exercise for the mind and soul.

    Brave young Patti Smith escapes the prospects of a life of factory work in New Jersey; packing a few small belongings and even fewer coins and going to New York City to make her way into the art world. She meets the handsome artist Robert Mapplethorpe, and together they devote themselves to each other and to art. Their life in the Chelsea Hotel is fascinating, as are the many denizens of the hotel. This is a love story, and a story of perseverance.

    If Just Kids was one of Robert Mapplethorpe's necklaces, Mapplethorpe himself would be the shining jewel, surrounded by a throng of lesser gems, like Sam Shepard, Janis Joplin, Harry Smith, Todd Rundgren, and even Smith herself. Mapplethorpe's genius, and also his dark side are described in detail. Her devotion to him never waivered, despite Mapplethorpe's ongoing homosexual experimentation and drug use.

    The story ends with the death of Robert Mapplethorpe. I would have liked to have known more about Fred "Sonic" Smith, Bob Dylan, etc. and the music biz. Perhaps Ms. Smith will write of these later years in another book. I recommend this book to Patti Smith fans, and to anyone interested in the New York scene in the late sixties into the eighties. What a slice of life!

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2011

    Beautiful writing, shocking life

    It's hard to write a review for a book so beautifully written and yet so blatantly deviant and outer limits (really). She writes so artfully that you nearly don't notice she's describing a picture of a man with a whip up his rear end. Yes, you saw that right. Don't get me wrong, I love a good love story just like anyone else (straight/gay/anything in between whatever), but she almost tries to hide the shock of what sort of life she led by using the right words. I found myself having to sit and absorb what she was writing to really get what she was saying (for instance, she just non-chalantly describes a scene where a friend of hers is shooting up heroin next to her and she's totally OK with it. So I had to put the Nook down and think about what she was trying to pass off as "just another day").

    And I totally "get" that she's trying to pass her early NYC days off as the freedom-from-any-judgement...but come on! Trying to pass off her lifestyle from this era as perfectly normal where everyone is shooting up or digging through trash for housewares and food is just downright ridiculous.

    10 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    love and music and patti smith

    i always saw patti smith as this goddess of rock and roll. etched in my mind is annie leibovitz's '78 rolling stone cover of patti smith towering over an inferno, a presence stronger than fire. last year's rock and roll hall fame concert featured aretha franklin, annie lennox, the killer, jeff beck, and stevie wonder, yet even on a stage with bono & bruce springsteen i thought it was still patti smith singing "because the night" who stole the entire show.

    but in her new autobiography, "just kids", patti smith is just a child growing up amongst her books, a teenager falling in love with mysticism (robert mapplethorpe as one of its forms), and an artist enthralled by rimbaud, dylan thomas, and bob dylan. sometimes starving and always vulnerable, it's a patti smith i never would've imagined. a lonely girl, a sad poet, a humbled artist, a grieving widow.

    gabriel garcia marquez believes that music can save the world. to me patti smith is further proof that it always has.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Where friendship and art meet.

    This is an interesting memoir, especially for fans of Mapelthrope or Patti Smith. For the younger generation who may not be familiar with these two names. Maplethorpe was a photographer with a style that was recognizable no matter his subject (he died of AIDs in his early 40s in 1989) and lets just say he wore his homosexuality proudly (for more on mapelthorpe I recommend Mapplethorpe: A Biography). Smith is the poet singer song writer often referred to as the grandma of punk rock and an activist for many causes to this very day. In this Memoir Smith writes about her relationship with Maplethorpe in the late and early 1970s before they became famous. I thought it was fascinating to read about these two icons before they realized who the were or wanted to be. Its hard not to think of Smith as a poet rebel, guitar in hand or Mapelthorpe as the in your face artist, but Smith's book takes the reader back to when both were "Just Kids." You see Smith and Maplethorpe as young people, not always secure in who they are, groping to find their passions that were burning inside but not fully understood. In this memoir Smith also presents a picture of a New York that no longer exists, and that alone makes this wonderful reading. Not all song writers can successfully write lyrics as well as prose, Smith though has a gift with the written word that is transcendent. Heart felt and honest, like her music.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2010

    Life For Lust

    To live a full life is a blessing shared by few. Patti Smith introduces us into a life of two young blessed tightrope walkers. Artists whose lives potentiated one another, and without whom neither may have succeeded. Patti shares this with us in intimate detail and as such we are blessed. A truly beautiful poetic love story both touching and provocative. To read it is to be inspired to follow your heart no matter how difficult the hand. A worthwile read for the struggling artist inside us all. Touching to the last.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2011

    Fascinating & Beautiful Read about Two Great Artists & Soul Mates

    I was blown away by this beautiful portrait of two young artists and best friends. To me, it was fascinating to see how two artistic souls developed into "artists" (and eventually icons, though that is not really included in the book). And while their romantic relationship broke, the description of Smith & Mapplethorpe's lifelong friendship was so touching.

    Granted, there were so many references to various writers and artists whose work I'm not too familiar with - and some better knowledge might have made the memoir even more impactful, but I still finished reading it and was just blown away at the amazing good fortune that these two people found each other, were able to build and sustain a unique friendship, and were both able to ultimately find success as artists. Reading about their evolution and development is amazing. Highly recommend.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    A beautiful memoir!

    I was totally compelled and emotionally swept away by this piece. Even if you don't have an extensive knowledge of the artists she refers to in the memoir, she will give you the gift of introducing you - investigating her refences will be an education for sure! Read it, enjoy!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2011

    Fast paced auto/biography of the turblent early years of Mapplethorpe and Smith

    Smith's narrative is straight forward, providing a poignant, and at times humorous, look into the early lives and struggles of Robert Mapplethorpe and herself, as they supported and encouraged each other in their artistic development, while enduring hardships that most of us could not imagine. They formed a bond that lasted throughout their lives. I found this narrative of their formative years as artists, to be very fascinating, providing insight into the deep intellectual, emotional and physical commitment required to grow in their artistic fields.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2011

    Touching and surprisingly well-written

    I chose this book solely on positive reviews and, frankly, was never a fan of either artist, although both were contemporaries of mine. Their work was not really the central focus of the story, however, and Patti Smith's writing is a straightforward but loving portrayal of her enduring bond with Mapplethorpe through the evolution of both of their lives. It also revealed the struggles confronting most artists and their quest for the ultimate prize of mainstream acceptance, of people "getting it'. It's a touching and honest portrayal of young love, sacrifice, and self-awakening, along with the inevitablity of loss and bad things happening along the way. A lovely tribute and very real.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Poetic writing, real relationship, exquisite history

    Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe met each other on her first day in New York and became the very best of friends before becoming lovers. Patti's wonderful memoir, separated many years from Robert's death, is a love poem not just to Robert, but to New York, a new emerging generational 'scene,' and the difficult farewell to innocence.
    Smith is not only a gifted singer/poet, but a wonderful writer; each sentence, each chapter, each story is well thought-out and very tightly spun. As the two 'kids' found and nurtured each other's artistic expressions, they became a tight unit that took on New York, poetry, collage, altar-making, symbolic expression and the emerging artistic personalities of the 70s.
    Hippies were getting older and punk was not far away. Featured themes, in no particular order: Rimbaud, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, homosexuality, love, devotion, Chelsea Hotel, Vintage apparel, photography, poetry, collages, drama, music, talismans, the significance of birth/death dates.
    There's a reason Patti Smith won national recognition for this work... it's deeply felt, analytical, imbued with artistic sensibilities, naked revelation, harsh realities of living on very little, and guided by the overbearing sense of being true to oneself.
    Everyone, of any age, can relate somehow to this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2011

    A Shimmering Tour de Force

    Every paragraph in this book sings with the inspired craftsmanship of the poet, creating vivid image after vivid image in my mind as I devoured this memoir like a starving man. There can be no doubt that Patti Smith is a huge talent any longer. This book vibrates in your hand. The recollections here are hard-won souvenirs of a life lived for art. What emerges is the heart of a woman who, I imagine after reading Just Kids, must be a fine mother. The feeling I am left with after reading this book is a haze of having witnessed perfection in the written word. To me it's one of the most impressive works of the new millenium describing one of the most impressive eras of the 20th century. Five stars. Congratulations to the author on producing such a fine read. Hope to see more books in the future!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    just kids

    an easy read book about 2 icons of the 1960's. it was interesting to learn how patti and robert connected and how they stayed together through drugs, other partners, homosexuality, etc. it was interesting to learn how art was so central in their life especially when art today seems so uninspired. i would have liked more indepth regarding how patti felt about and why she stayed with robert despite the pain, drugs, stds, etc. also why did she leave nyc to marry fred which seemed to come out of nowhere...then she married him and moved to detroit.. what motivated her to leave the art scene, her friends, her beloved chelsea hotel,etc. i could have used an extra chapter to tie some loose ends up.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2010

    Just Kids

    Amazing read - and even better hearing Patti read it aloud - so lucky to have seen her 1/26/10...Portland, Oregon

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2012

    Very inspiring.

    This book was written by a wise women who lived in the moment. Patti today is still a kid at heart. I am sixteen and i loved the book, very relatable and inspiring. It impacted me a lot in my own life. The story Patti tells is beautiful as she meets the most amazing people in history in the most random moments. She doesn't just write about herself in her autobiography but the people she met in her life. Patti writes with love and passion, you can tell she doesn't regret a single move. I love how she wrote so much that i wish i could meet her.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2012

    A cultural memoir

    Just Kids, by Patti Smith, is an interesting book filled with discussion on social culture, association, the creation of art through companionship, and of course, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The book combines the visual with the poetic and the poetic with the prose, which in turn seeks a vision of the past, leaving the reader questioning whether it was a success story, confession, or simply a memoir. The narrative of the book moves through time with a dream like mysticism, mimicking the fluctuations experienced in a hyper-social drugged up culture.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 20, 2011

    an honest recollection

    Patti writes in a way that makes anyone who has struggled as an artist or writer can understand. Hard to put down!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2011

    Fascinating! Couldn't put it down.

    The writing is eloquent and intelligent. The story engaging and fascinating. Patti and Robert met and landed in the middle of it all during the last 60's, 70's and early 80's. What a journey!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    awesome unique style

    I wasn't a big fan of Patti or Robert, but I love NYC and she hit the streets there the same year I finished high school, so all her period references resounded in me. the book isn't intended to be a total bio, but is a perfect picture as titled, when the eventual artists were "just kids" together.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 309 Customer Reviews

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