Review: Just Kids

Just KidsJust Kids by Patti Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

oh go on, they’re just kids

I’m still trying to collect my thoughts about this book. I know it made me feel something, I know I have every intention of re-reading it, and I know many anecdotes from it will come up in casual conversation with my friends when I try to convince them to read it. Still, I am not sure what the emotions are I feel when I think about it. There’s obviously a feeling of loss and grief; not just for Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Wagstaff, but also for all the other artists, players, hustlers, and socialites in their circle who had tragic ends. They were all walking the same cusp, brushing shoulders with some of the most influential musicians and artists of the sixties and seventies. So many people in this circle must’ve thought they were on their way to achieving their creative dreams, only to be mentioned later on in the novel to have taken their own life, died of an accidental overdose, or other unfortunate circumstances.

There was also hope, and optimism, and a feeling that anything is possible. There was certainly some magic, both light and dark, that people flirted with, and in some cases became lost. Personally, I felt the magic was strongest at the Chelsea hotel.

There was humor, like Patti’s first interaction with Allen Ginsberg, when he mistook her for a very pretty boy.

And there were plenty of respects paid to the generations of the artists who laid the foundation for the next breakthrough.

One thought that kept coming back to me throughout this whole memoir, were just how much the times had changed. She spoke of living in NYC as an artist selling books and scraping by. She spoke of how far fifty cents could get her and even at her worst she and Robert knew they would find a way. It’s sort of crazy to think that if she and Mapplethorpe were born today, or were in their twenties today, they could not have taken that journey to NYC (or it would’ve been more complicated). It almost felt like the spirits of the city back then were encouraging them to succeed and based on my very limited knowledge of NYC I don’t know how well this journey could be replicated today.

I loved this book, and I look forward to further digesting it in the coming days.

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