Patti Smith’s elegy for a friend, a time and a place

Patti Smith‘s Just Kids caught my eye at the airport bookstore on my way to Austin a couple weeks ago.  Heading to Texas for a music festival, it seemed the only appropriate book in the small selection.  I had never been a huge fan of Patti Smith‘s music, but I still held her in high regard.  My personal opinion of her music did nothing to blind me to the spectrum of her influence. 

Patti Smith is a punk icon from a time and a New York I am too young to have been a part of or even understand. Up to this point I had never read anything she had written, so I was unprepared for the prose within the pages of this paperback (auto)biography of controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, New York in the late 60’s-early 70’s, the Chelsea Hotel, and a young girl from Jersey trying to find her way and self in the big city.

Her words with bring you into a world of art, drugs, political and sexual revolutions, living fast and dying young…a world as dirty, diseased and disgusting as it was beautiful.  Patti, being one of the few survivors of this pinnacle time in American history in the New York city punk/art scene, has a eerie way of remembering the smallest details; details that will make you feel like you were there at the round table at Max‘s or the Warhol parties at The Factory, the night The Doors played the Fillmore East, the night Janis cried herself to sleep because the guys didn’t want her, the night Jimi Hendrix spoke about changing the world through music and the night Allen Ginsberg hit on her, thinking she was a ‘pretty boy’.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in music, art or history.  It’s got everything and Patti is a genius storyteller and poet.