Review: "Just Kids," by Patty Smith
This is simply an amazing book, well written, rich, generous and honest. It is everything...everything...that anyone could want in an autobiography of a rock star. This is a peaen to the nuance, spirit and abysmal decadence of the Greenwich Village and the art/rock scene of the 60's and 70's. Last year I read the autobiography of Neil Young and was bored beyond belief. That book should have been trashed and Neil, despite his musical genius should have been told to start over.
Smith delivers a love note to her partner in art, Mapplethorpe, and draped over their relationship is the amazing cultural melting pot of that era and place. Smith genuinely "discovers" her art and talent and she grows into a driving icon of the times. Allowing herself time and holding true to the feeling of self-expression that she needs to grow she becomes what we know her to be...Patty Smith...an integral and formative spirit in the 70's, 80's, and beyond.
There are no affectations to this story. She sends photographic word images of the people and places, their strengths and many, many weaknesses. Many people look back on that era with a nostalgia, romanticism that seems to evoke wishes that we all lived it, but in honesty, most of those times were not pretty, failed lives abounded, drug addiction and death, along with the scourge of AIDS decimated the ranks of the brilliant and talented. In addition, there were hoards of hangers-on, wannabees, and abusers who fed off the talented and weak.
This book captures that in perfect, chronological order. It's needed in the histories of that era, especially as the numbers of those intimately connected dwindle as we grow older (Lou Reed). I wish that "Just Kids" was 500 pages longer and my hope is that Smith re-visits her life once more and tells us more stories.