Just Kids by Patti Smith:
I'll admit, I've led a sheltered life. My apartment was never robbed, I've never had a boyfriend who hustled for money, I've never lived in a hotel, I've never had anyone murdered outside my front door, I've never had conversations with famous people like Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin back in the day. On some of these examples, sheltered is a good thing. These are but a few of the life experiences Patti Smith shares in Just Kids, her story about her relationship with renowned photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
Art and the need for self expression are some of the biggest themes in the book. It's so fascinating to hear of these two young people who are living in poverty, basically, but have such a strong desire to create. Creating art is almost as important to them as food or shelter. And it seems that Patti and Robert are so close to one another because they both understand this need and tend to it mutually. It's an interesting peek inside the lives of true artists, and their various mediums of expression.
I also enjoyed, from a photographer's perspective, the notes about Robert's foray into the world of photography: how much film cost those days, and how that cost affected the work, descriptions of some of his early equipment, and most of all, his search for the right light (reading about this part made me so pleased about my own photography, because I do the same thing!). Patti and Robert go through all sorts of ordeals on their way to stardom (actually, it seems like they never set out to be famous. I gather that they just set out to be true to themselves and their art); yet through all the bad times (which include lice, gonorrhea, homelessness, near starvation and some of the other examples mentioned above), making art is the goal. Smith certainly has an interesting story to tell: so much happened to them as they found their way in the world.
I listened to the book on CD, read by the author, which I definitely recommend. I loved hearing her accent (yell-a for yellow), and just hearing Smith's voice made the story seemed even more authentic. I also recommend listening to her seminal album, Horses, to come full circle with the story.