Just Kids by Patti Smith (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
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Just Kids by Patti Smith, narrated by the author, embraces her naivete and anxiety about her artistic life, particularly her chaotic creative process and her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.  As a struggling poet, she finds that she was ill-prepared for feeling true hunger or living on the streets, but through a series of kind acts from strangers and eventually friends, she finds her way.  Moving fluidly between photography, art, music, and poetry, Smith demonstrates what it means to be young and on a journey of self-discovery in the 1960s and 1970s.

This is a very honest memoir about life as an artist, and what it means to have a clear vision of what you want from an artistic life.  Mapplethorpe had a clear vision of what he wanted from his art and pursued it relentlessly and with all of his body, even though he also feared the judgment of others.  Smith, on the other hand, knew she wanted to be a poet, but was unable to see for some time that poetry is malleable and can evolve beyond what is expected.

Rather than assess her relationship with Mapplethorpe, Smith focuses on how their tumultuous relationship allowed them to grow as artists — their reciprocal relationship becomes the crux of what it means to be a muse and to have a muse.  Because Smith is a writer, her observational skills are keenly seen in her memoir.  An early pact that these artists make to one another about being the sober one when the other is not, helps to keep both artists on their ultimate creative paths, even if they diverge from one another.

Just Kids by Patti Smith is seductive.  Smith narrates it as she wrote it, with honesty and unconditional love.  While she makes no assessments about her experiences, readers will see how appreciative she is for her luck and her journey, a journey that is ripe with sadness and pain but also joy and happiness.  The life of an artist is difficult and chaotic, but no less fulfilling for those committed to it body and soul.

***The poems at the end are worth waiting for***

Rating: Cinquain

Photo: © Jesse Dittmar

About the Author:

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Please visit her Website.


Other Reviews:

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    Glad you found another winner! You’re really on a roll with the audio books.

  • Suko

    I’m glad you enjoyed this audio book memoir by Patti Smith. It sounds rather intense and fascinating. Excellent review, Serena, as always!

  • Ti Reed

    This is what worries me about the whole starving artists thing.. my kid. I know he is super talented and will end up in New York at some point but how will he live??? I worry so much.

    This sounds like a very readable memoir but I am not sure about listening to it on audio. I am kind of picky when it comes to audio books. It took years for me to accept the medium.

    • I really think Smith reads her own words well. There’s an emotion behind them that I don’t think you’d get with other narrators.

      I know what you mean; it’s something my parents worried about for me as a writer. I have a day job and while it is not ideal, I am writing every day. I write creatively when I can because unlike Patti, I know I could not go day-to-day without knowing how I would eat or where I would sleep. I needed a steady income, and art unfortunately has to be secondary.

      Part of the issue is that art is not taken seriously by the markets or the employers — it’s considered frivolous even if you have to work incredibly hard at it and take hours and hours to perfect something.

  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    I don’t always like it when an author narrates their own work but it sounds like she did a great job. I’ll have to check it out.