Book Review – Just Kids

Fiona Wilson, Contributor

Before her first album, Horses, and far prior to her famous collaboration with Bruce Springsteen on “Because the Night,” she was a starving artist. Just Kidsdelves into her pre-frame life, as well as the beautiful, innocent, and unconditional relationship between Patti Smith and her soulmate, lover, and best friend, Robert Mapplethorpe. The two first encounter each other threadbare and enthusiastic about the promise of New York City. Sleeping in Central Park, loitering between the lines at Coney Island, and plundering delis for leftovers, Smith and Mapplethorpe’s beginnings were humble, to say the least. Aspiring to parallel the styles of their idols, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, and Bob Dylan, to name only a few, they hustle for every cent, all as Pattie scribbles verses and sketches visions and Robert directs his immodest style through his camera. Both were lucky enough to discover a companion with which they could share their passions, fueling each other’s evolution and success. Smith narrates their pure bond through a roguish lens, pitting herself and Mapplethorpe against all odds. Their fringe lifestyle drives them through the jungle of the sixties and seventies to their true endeavor: creating a legacy through their art. While they fluctuate among different relationships, theirs remains malleable—each other’s artist and muse, critic and admirer, companion and darling. Smith not only salutes her most adored creator but all of the lost artists whose work went unfinished or unacknowledged. This intimate insider view of their faults, fears, dreams, and inspirations is astonishing, at times disturbing, and undeniably heart-wrenching.