Sometimes I read a book so compelling that I can’t help telling everyone about it. Last week I devoured Patti Smith’s memoir of her relationship with artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids. The book won, among other accolades, the 2010 National Book Award for non-fiction and is, quite simply, one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Smith, while best known for her musical accomplishments (she has been dubbed “the godmother of punk”), is also an accomplished poet and visual artist. Her skill as a wordsmith is certainly on display here. The book evokes such a strong sense of ‘70s-era New York that you can practically smell it, yet as much as the story is about a specific time and place, it’s also timeless in its exploration of artistry, the creative impulse, and the idealism and passions of youth.
If you’re a fan of either Smith’s or Mapplethorpe’s work and haven’t read this yet, please don't put it off any longer. If you’re interested in contemporary American culture, in music, in the history of the punk scene, in art, in creativity, or if you simply take pleasure in a well-crafted, finely wrought piece of work, read this book.
Below, Smith reads from the book, and then sings “Because the Night,” co-written with Bruce Springsteen: