Reviewed the audiobook for SHELF AWARENESS
Just Kids, Patti Smith's memoir of her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, which began with a random meeting in Brooklyn in 1967 and lasted until Mapplethorpes death from AIDS in 1989, won the 2010 National Book Award for nonfiction. Drawn together by their shared drive to create art and united by a vow to take care of one another, they spent several remarkable years together in New York City's artistic subculture, centered around the legendary Hotel Chelsea.
Smith and Mapplethorpe were far more than best friends. As struggling young artists, they were roommates and, for a time, lovers (until they both accepted Robert's homosexuality). And as their artistic paths diverged - Robert's toward photography, Patti's to poetry and music - they were one another's muses. In Just Kids, Smith doesn'tt over-analyze their complex relationship; she simply shares it intimately and openly, and makes it absorbing and engaging.
Mapplethorpe's art was edgy and controversial; Smith's music and poetry are more respected than popular. It's not necessary to be a fan of either's work to be drawn into their personal story. A sharp observer and accomplished writer, Smith makes their world vivid and engaging, recounting scenes, episodes and conversations in striking detail.
Smith acknowledges that it took her a long time to be ready to tell this story, and she doesnt shy away from its less-than-flattering elements. With variations in tone that match the material - erudite discussion of French poetry soon followed by a drawling recount of a conversation with one of her Chelsea neighbors - she makes an appealing narrator of her own story in this audio production, which is enhanced by the inclusion of some of her lyrics and poetry.