Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Latest Read: Just Kids

I've been a long-time fan of Patti Smith...ever since I saw her perform at a Green Party rally when I was in High School.  This memoir took me quite awhile to read.  Not because I didn't like it but because this is not a book to devour, but rather it's one to savor.  So, I stretched this wonderful story out for as long as I could.

Here's just one example of her amazing writing:
"It is said that children do not distinguish between living and inanimate objects; I believe they do.  A child imparts a doll or tin soldier with magical life-breath.  The artist animates his work as the child his toys.  Robert infused objects, whether for art or life, with his creative impulse, his sacred sexual power."

Not only was the writing beautiful but the story of Patti's and Robert Mapplethorpe's trials and tribulations in their quest to become bona fide artists was fascinating.  There are so many great anecdotes about encounters with famous artists of that era (i.e. Janis Joplin, Allen Ginsberg, Todd Rundgren and many more).  Also, their will to persist in the face of some serious obstacles was extraordinary.  She does such a wonderful job portraying the artist's quest for finding herself and the ultimate outlet for her talent.

As a somewhat random aside, I wonder if artists do not pursue their craft as wholeheartedly as Patti portrays her and Robert's journey.  Have we lost something in this modern age?  I'm not trying to condemn everyone...there are some great musicians and artists out there right now; however, it seems that those who are the most significant in the public conscience are lacking depth.  It just makes me wonder which is more true: is there a dearth of quality artists and musicians in this day and age...or are we spreading the talent pool too thin by amusing ourselves to death as entertained in Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World?  Patti expressed similar musings in a far superior manner when describing the journey of her band.  She said:

"We imagined ourselves as the Sons of Liberty with a mission to preserve, protect, and project the revolutionary spirit of rock and roll.  We feared that the the music which had given us sustenance was in danger of spiritual starvation.  We feared it losing its sense of purpose, we feared it falling into fattened hands, we feared it floundering in a mire of spectacle, finance, and vapid technical complexity."

Interesting things to ponder, no?  Anyways, after finishing this enchanting novel I was left with the impression that, while this book is many things, ultimately it is Patti's extended love letter to her best friend Robert.  Honestly, this is one of the best memoirs I've ever read...I highly recommend Just Kids.

And now, I'd like to leave you with one of Patti's masterpieces:

5/5 stars.

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