Just kids by Patti Smith
2010, HarperCollins Publishers
A beautiful book, a must read, that is if you feel for young artists or for young people with a fire within. Patti Smith narrates her early youth as if it has just happened; so many details can only come from notebooks daily updated with devoted precision. The narration creates a picture where the trivial is evened with the mythical; that, due to the names that pass by their lives and through the pages of the book. P.Smith “wears” them in their life in Chelsey hotel just like the garments that they wore, she and Robert Mapplethorpe, in every occasion, described in provocative detail. Nevertheless this is more the “trivial” and the “provocative” of some people, young (or) artists; their youth does not differ so much from generation to generation: the fiery passion in deprivation from the basics, where basics are a safe place to live, food, warmth; the standard for average people from normal families in the west. Some of you will recognise the one sandwich and one drink shared at the diner, the one ticket to the museum where one sees the other one stays outside and waits for the description, the lack of sanitary commodities, the cold, etc. P.Smith adds lice, peeing cups etc. to an extreme life that inevitably has a limited span.
Sometimes of course the more you are pushed down the more urge you show to come out and well. Conformity never brings out the best, but poverty neither. There is the key and the surprise of the story. In all the turbulence and doubt about art and life, they both found a way further through their life partners. For Mapplethorpe it was his rich patron/ partner who finally established him in the art scene; for Smith it was her musician husband that took her away from the whirlpool of New York and obviously gave her a good ground to develop her music and poetry. For both it was a blessing that they shared their moulding years closely together being equally blessed to part before swamping in a stereotype pattern.
Here comes a passer-by thought that the real thing is what comes after this youth; even though sometimes this “after” does not even concern you, like when you are dead in any way.
P.S. a biography in poetical text; a rare gift