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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Patti Smith's 'Just Kids' is one terrific book

If I hadn't gone to NYC, if Stacie hadn't recommended the Chelsea, then Claire would not have told me about Just Kids, a must-read if you like good writing and memoirs and, especially if you stay at the Chelsea. (Why it wasn't for sale in the lobby is beyond me.) It's no wonder Patti Smith's book won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 2010; it is marvelous.
It's all about her advent to the Big Apple on just pennies a day and her meeting up with Robert Mapplethorpe and their fantastic relationship with each other, friends, and the city in the 1970s, through common ups and downs, and how they eventually achieved stardom which is told as a postscript.

One of my favorite passages:


"Robert, Harry, and I often went together [to eat at the Automat], and getting the fellows under way could take a lot more time than eating.
I have to fetch Harry. He can't find his keys. I search the floor and locate them under some esoteric volume. He starts reading it and it reminds him of another book he needs to find. Harry rolls a joint while I look for the second book. Robert arrives and has a smoke with Harry. I know then it's curtains for me. When they have a smoke it takes them an hour to accomplish a ten-minute thing. Then Robert decides to wear the denim vest he made by cutting the sleeves off his jacket and goes back to our room. Harry thinks my black velvet dress is too bleak for daytime. Robert comes up on the elevator as we go down the stairs, frantic comings and going like playing out the verses of 'Taffy Was a Welshman.'"
Writing masterfully, Patti tells the story in modest, unassuming terms. At the end you'll be very happy for her, that she "made it." You will seek out Wikipedia to find out more of their details than what is shed in the book.

It can't be true that perseverance conquers failure every time. We only hear the success stories. Where are the stories from the unrelenting that never get told? Are those persistent souls still at it?  They'll tell their stories, too, after they have succeeded? If you abandon your quest, then you gave up too soon?  If you die before you reach your goal, well, it's n'ermore.

Don't miss the cover story about Patti Smith in the October 16, 2011 issue of the NYT Style Magazine. You'll become her fan if you're not already.

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