Just Kids by Patti Smith
(Ecco, 2010, 278 pages)
This was my first read on my new Nook, and I have to say, I love my Nook and I loved this book. Patti Smith is an artist in every sense of the word. She is a poet, and even her prose is poetic. She is a visual artist—she draws, she photographs. And she is a musician, melding her poetry into song. This is the story of her lifelong relationship with artist and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. They started as romantic partners, but even as their lives led them into other relationships, they remained soulmates. They were struggling artists together, living in hotels with little money for food. They both eventually became famous, but it was hard to tell in the book when this was actually happening. They were artists working to perfect their craft; the fame seemed secondary and nonexistent most of the time.
There were so many characters in the book that it was hard to keep track of who was who. I stopped asking myself, “now who was that?” and just kept reading. Smith also referred to several writers, artists, and musicians that she admired and whose work influenced her. I wish I had set a computer beside myself and looked up each reference as I read; it was a history lesson in itself. I sobbed during the last 20 pages of the book as she reminisced about her relationship with Mapplethorpe who had died during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. This book is a work of art and worthy of the 2010 National Book Award.