Just Kids

Patti Smith

Even if you don’t give a damn about photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, or about the history of punk rock, you still might like Patti Smith’s memoir recounting her youthful life in the late ’60s, when she was living with Mapplethorpe in the Chelsea Hotel and dreaming big dreams of a life as an artist. Mapplethorpe went on to become notorious for work that shocked many, and Smith went on to become an iconic early figure in the emerging punk scene, all before her relationship with Mapplethorpe hit the wall when he realized his true sexual orientation. Unlike so many celebrity memoirs, this one was written by someone who writes well. The book is so well crafted, in fact, that it’s a joy to read for the writing alone. In addition to her career as a rocker, Smith is also a poet, and some of that shows up in her prose. She has a poet’s gift for the telling detail that will anchor a memory, and for the unexpected word that will drive home meaning. She also emerges as a rather sweet person, which is not a quality normally associated with the punk-rock scene.