Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Review:: Just Kids

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were many things-lovers, artistic collaborators, each others muse, and lifelong friends. Just Kids chronicles their relationship from when they met as teenagers up until the time of Robert's death in the late eighties. Throughout all the incarnations of their relationship, they both had one main goal which was to create art, Patti through poetry, drawing (and later, music) and Robert through drawing and photography.

This book isn't plot heavy, it's simply their story, the story that Robert asked Patti to tell. There is no one big moment in the book, but the beauty is in the little details: the way they would go to Coney Island and share a hot dog and soda because they were too poor for anything else. (He would eat the hot dog, she's eat the sauerkraut.); the gifts of drawings or thrift store trinkets; the way they essentially stayed "together" throughout their adult lives even though Patti married someone else and Robert ended up in a committed relationship with another man. They had vowed never to leave each other and ultimately they never did.

One of the things I loved about this book was that it ends right as Patti Smith begins to get famous. Having never really been a fan of Smith's music, I started to lose interest when she describes recording sessions and gigs. But, she kept that part short and then fast forwarded to Robert's death due to AIDS complications. The last ten or so pages describing his death and all the emotions surrounding it were gut wrenching and I found myself choking back tears.

The fact that a large portion of this story takes place during such an interesting time for pop culture-the '60's and '70's, made reading this somewhat of a history lesson for me and from time to time I found myself putting the book down just to do internet searches on so many of the fascinating people who were in the news at that time. Like Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski's wife who was brutally murdered by followers of Charlie Manson. I had no idea she was eight months pregnant at the time of her death. Or all the crazy characters who Andy Warhol surrounded himself with. Previously, these were all just names to me.

Through this book I was also introduced to the work of Robert Mapplethorpe which is breathtaking, beautiful, and at times brutally graphic. If you aren't familiar with his work I urge you to do an image search and check it out. (Although be warned that what pops up is NOT safe for work, not for child eyes, and frankly, may be offensive to some adults.)

Just Kids is more than a memoir. It's the story of two friends on their journey to become artists. It was a smooth, easy read and will probably end up being one of my favorite books of the year.

10 comments:

jessie b said...

<3 Mapplethorpe.

Tammie said...

jessie: i had a feeling you were probably a mapplethorpe fan.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

WOW. this sounds great. never a big fan of her music I have found her so interesting in interviews. Thanks for the recommendation.

Tammie said...

peggy: i always felt the same way. i never liked her music but could still see the appeal of 'her'. she's a very interesting person.

daphne said...

Wasn't it amazing? I loved this book and I just cried and cried at the end. I learned about Mapplethorpe in college, but didn't know much more than that he was terribly influential and daring and controversial. I'm not a huge fan of Patti Smith (although I love Horses) but this book was so amazing -- such a fascinating window of time. I loved it; I'm so glad your read it!

mandy said...

i've been wondering if this is worth the read, i think i'm gonna put it on my list.

Maria Rose said...

As an art historian I am familiar with both of these people. Cool that you read this book. There were some characters at that period in time. I will have to check this out.

P.S. I would like to add to your disclaimer that some of Mapplethorpe's images are things that you can NEVER un-see. I think maybe sticking to google searches of his flowers or still life scenes would be safest!

Tammie said...

maria rose: DEFINITELY TRUE!

Run Lori Run said...

I had heard about this book and wanted to read it, thanks for the review. I studied Maplethorpe in college. It was amusing to see people so bent out of shape about him...

Dani said...

This has been shown in my "on the nightstand" tab for weeks and weeks. Have I started it? No. Not because I don't want to. I do. SO MUCH! But I want to enjoy it and get into it. I'm just not there mentally right now. I have been reading the sports page via my phone...it suits my mental capacity at this moment.

So...it will remain on the nightstand for a bit longer.