Here's a book that is, if you're "in the demo", simply impossible to pass up. The story of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, in New York City, in 1969, written by none other than Patti herself – what more could you ask for? Opening the book at random (no foolin'!) we came upon this paragraph: "A cold front passed over New York City in October. I developed a bad cough. The heating was erratic in our loft spaces. They were not meant to live in and were cold at night. Robert often stayed at David's, and I would pile up all our blankets and stay awake till quite late reading Little Lulu comics and listening to Bob Dylan." Yes, we'll be quite at home here... A cursory look through this book reveals that it, unsurprisingly, echoes Dylan's memoir of his own early days in NYC, Chronicles, Volume 1; we can hardly wait to see how it stacks up. Should you feel like reading more about this one before taking the plunge, you're in luck, as it has been the recipient of plenty of media attention and has received ample online-accessible-reviews.
OK, true believers, THIS IS IT! Just Kids is the most poetic evocation of the spirit of rock 'n' roll rebellion that we are likely ever to have. The story told here, of Patti and Robert, is a modern American version of the classic tragedy of the doomed lovers (think Troilus and Cressida, Pelléas and Mélisande, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde – you get the idea). The intensity and historical importance (well, at least to the history of rock 'n' roll and the nexus at which it connects to art, at any rate) of the events related in the story are at times overwhelming. Whereas throughout Western history, the tragic paradigm has been for the tragedy to occur within the realm of history and to be later redeemed within the realm of art, here in Just Kids, Patti Smith spins the tale of how her and Robert Mapplethorpe have redeemed their own personal tragedies in the present through their own work, thus breaking on through to the other side by being both actors on history's stage and creating artists themselves. It's the American way. While, surely, they aren't the only couple to have done so, Just Kids is the purest and strongest literary embodiment by an actual living participant in such a story that we have come across. Do someone a favor and give them this. Patti Smith has a poet's eye, a poet's ear, a poet's tongue and a poet's pen, all animated by a rock 'n' roll soul.