Friday, January 21, 2011

Just Kids

Last night, on my way home on the train, I finished Patti Smith's book Just Kids.  There were a lot of things I really loved about it.  It gave a window into a time period that I've already credited with being one of the most dynamic and creative of the century (late 60s - 70s) in a city I wish I could've experienced then - New York.  It was lyrical (something I had to allow myself to settle into) and moving.  I found, however, that Smith maintains an emotional distance throughout.  Not that her love and affection for Robert Mapplethorpe isn't clearly demonstrated.  It is.  However, I missed her emotional responses to things that were happening to her specifically, individually.

For example, in the brief (one paragraph) synopsis of the end of her relationship with Allen Lanier from Blue Oyster Cult it goes something like this: " was revealed that the trust I believed we shared was repeatedly violated, endangering us both...Ultimately it destroyed our relationship, but not the respect I had for him, nor the gratitude I felt for the good he had done, as I stepped into uncharted territory" (p. 246).  I guess she's not prone to cry in the shower.  It wasn't the first time we got that kind of response to the end of a love affair.

I imagine that she wanted to keep the focus on her relationship with Mapplethorpe, and in the end, I feel we get more of Mapplethorpe than we do of Smith.  Smith seems to be seen in relief to Mapplethorpe, not quite as fully revealed.  She keeps her cards close to her chest and sometimes this distance makes her feel a little too rational for me.

Despite this, I ended up loving the book and feeling like I'd been invited into a world I could easily imagine myself in.  Once well in the stream of its language, the book moved swiftly and was over all too soon.

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