Just Kids

What do Julia Child and Patti Smith have in common? Virtually nothing, except that both are iconic cultural figures who have been famous for decades, and I knew nothing about either of them until I read their memoirs this year. It seems funny that now I'm writing for the second time in a month to say that I loved an autobiography when ordinarily I never read them, but trust me, this is a great book.

Just Kids is Patti Smith's recollection of her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. They lived in New York, in Brooklyn and the Chelsea Hotel, and they were friends, lovers, mutual muses, collaborators, and artists long before either of their work became known.

Smith won the National Book Award this year. In her acceptance speech she talked of books so fervently that I wanted to read hers. In it, she describes the years when she and Mapplethorpe were starving bohemian artists struggling to find their creative voices, and she worked at Scribner bookstore to support them, making extra money by scouring used book stores for rare and vintage books then selling them for profit. She spent days and hours immersed in books and writing poetry long before she became a singer and musician. That poetic voice is highly evident in this story, which at its best is a lyrical elegy to a lost love.

Watch her on Stephen Colbert here.

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