Bookgrrl Book Review- Just Kids

Books and librarians apparently go hand in hand, or so everyone keeps telling me. ‘Wow, you’re sooo lucky being a librarian, you get to read all day!’ Er, no. I get to stare at a computer all day long, and then I go home and get to be a mum. Sure I read as a mum, but it’s usually Maisy, Kipper, Peppa Pig…you get the drift.

One of the reasons I really cherish my commute between Ballarat and Melbourne is the luxury to read a paper without little hands pulling at my sleeve,  read a book guilt-free and not furtively in the bedroom, and listen to my iPod IN PEACE.

Anyway, as I’m a library nerd par excellence and I am happy to conform to most librarian stereotypes (except for the frumpy stereotype), I give you a Bookgrrl Book Review.

Just Kids coverJust Kids is the story of Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe and their relationship. The title comes from an overheard remark, when they were spotted by an older couple in the park. “They look just like artists” said the wife. “Nah, they’re just kids” was the reply.

It details their life together as a couple, their devotion to their art, and the friendship that endured until Mapplethorpe’s death.

I had vaguely known of the connection between them, having seen a Mapplethorpe retrospective at the NGV at least 20 years ago and seeing some iconic images of Patti Smith (the cover of her album Horses, and a nude). Yet it wasn’t until reading the book that I realised how involved they were in each other’s lives.

Smith’s writing style is immensely readable and aptly for a poet, quite poetic. Her story flows, from her childhood, to her arriving in New York in 1967, to her living in abject poverty with Mapplethorpe, then the gradual interest that began to take place around their art. It is interesting to note she encouraged his taking up of photography, and he always enjoyed her singing. Many of Mapplethorpe’s more provocative images, it is hinted, were done to get a reaction from her.

I loved the book and made me want to search for not so much Smith’s recordings, but Mapplethorpe’s work again. He is still the more enigmatic of the couple, abd this books serves at a glimpse at one of the most intriguing photographers of the 20th century.


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