Book Review: Just Kids

I finished Just Kids last week and reading hasn’t been the same. I first caught wind of Patti Smith’s memoir from Ashley and since she put it on my reading radar, I’ve seen mentions of it everywhere. I borrowed the book from the library and even successfully badgered a friend of mine to read it before I even opened it. It was tucked underneath my passenger seat for months before I packed it on my carry on for airplane reading en route to Vegas.

I’m so glad I didn’t give up on starting this book like I normally would do if I don’t crack up a borrowed book within a few weeks of getting it. Patti Smith writes the story of her friendship with her soul mate, Robert Mapplethorpe. Usually, I don’t buy into the idea of soul mates but I cannot think of a better way to describe the bond between Patti and Robert. Through the lifespan of their relationship, they shared the bond that would exist between best friends, lovers, siblings, mentor and mentee, artist and muse, and lifelong companions. They were each other’s cheerleaders and protectors and it was a real honor to be able to follow their journey through art and life.

Peppered through the memoir are scans of their work in photographs, drawings, and writings. I emailed Ashley telling her how this book has made me want to be more of a sentimental artifacts hoarder. Funnily she told me it had the opposite effect on her because there were times these two wandered with very little possessions. Patti moved to New York with hardly anything in her suitcase. She traveled to Paris with scarcely anything in her suitcase. Comparing the differences in what Ashley and I took away reminds me again that reading is such a personal journey. What we find significant to us is an indication to where we are and who we are in life. I am already a sentimental artifact hoarder. Ashley is already a minimalist in progress.

Still, I cannot imagine anyone reading this book and not be moved by the relationship between Patti and Robert.

Here are a few passages that spoke to me as I am now:

I bought stacks of books, but I didn’t read them. I taped sheets of paper to the wall, but I didn’t draw. I slid my guitar under the bed. At night, alone, I just sat and waited. Once again I found myself contemplating what I should be doing to do something of worth. Everything I came up with seemed irreverent or irrelevant.

“Say anything,” he said. “You can’t make a mistake when you improvise.”

“What if I mess it up? What if I screw up the rhythm?”

“You can’t,” he said. “It’s like drumming. If you miss a beat, you create another.”

Yet you could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening. It had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. Now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods. Perhaps it was an awareness of time passing, the last summer of the decade. Sometimes I just wanted to raise my hands and stop. But stop what? Maybe just growing up.