‘It pleased me to imagine a presence above us, like liquid stars’ – Patti Smith pondering on the idea of God and her affiliation with religion in Just Kids, 2010.

The copy I bought in 2011, at age 16

Smith is an American writer, performer and visual artist influential to the punk movement in 1970’s New York. Just Kids, a memoir is a romantic reflection on the incredibly warm and richly lived life of Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, fellow artist and a widely acclaimed photographer. Mapplethorpe tragically contracted AIDS and passed away in 1989 after battling with the disease for three years. During these three years however, Mapplethorpe excelled artistically, representing courage and strength through his level of candour about his illness. 

Just Kids is highly important due to its level of honest sensibility and rational reflection on many different social spectrums such as art, social class, music (specifically punk rock and the blues), Americana notions and unconditional love. Allowing readers to envision downtown Manhattan’s last spurt of energetic soul through a window looking in on the late 1960s and 70s, is what makes this memoir, culturally, sociologically and magically relevant in Smith’s fond memories told through a sincere narrative. 

Modest retellings of memories where Smith would interact with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in the notorious Chelsea Hotel in New York as a star-studded, justified name dropping level of fame. The eloquent tonal description Smith uses to descriptive Mapplethorpe’s capability to adapt to different situation is heart-warming. Smith remembers seeng Robert interacting in the various worlds of the Chelsea hotel, and Andy Warhol’s empiric environment of the Factory.

Just Kids encapsulates the bohemian age of the 60s and 70s in Manhattan, and the book serves as not only an elegy for her deceased soul mate, but for the long gone, but not forgotten, New York that Smith knew and thrived in, She became and remains, one of the most successful thinkers of the period. She has managed to sustain a career through different eras, regardless of technological innovation and societal upheaval.

My collection of Patti Smith’s literature
This review is taken from my contribution to my student newspaper, Kent Inquire in March 2016.

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