This memoir enchanted me and infuriated me in equal measure. Reading Patti Smith was a bit like hanging out with that friend you don’t see very often purely because of the havoc she causes. You wake up the next morning with a killer hang over a mixture of cheap bourbon and cigarettes, and wearing a bra that you did not leave the house in.
In this book you are in New York, but not just New York, New York in the late 60’s early 70’s. The time of Andy Warhol, CBGB, Rolling Stones, Woodstock, Bobby Kennedy, the sexual revolution. Smith makes the bohemian life style incredibly intoxicating. Living the Chelsea Hotel with Soul Mate and sometimes lover Robert Mapplethorpe where Anthony Burgess would waltz through. Or where Dylan Thomas wrote his last poem or the other Dylan - Bob, wrote Lay Lady Lay.
This memoir invokes the incredible sense of freedom living for your art can do, if you didn’t mind starving for your art. I have never been good at starving, maybe which is why I have never been an artist.
Even though this is an unfair criticism I wanted at times to tidy the book, Smith writings could appear like a Jackson Pollock painting, splattered every where with no form. Beautiful yes, hypnotic yes, but I was not entirely sure where it was heading. I often wanted to tell these ‘Just Kids’ to hurry up and grow up, stop sponging off one another. Get a hair cut and get a real job. But that would be missing the point. This is a memoir of a pocket in time, where you could be selfish, self indulgent, naive, the belief you can devote yourself to the impractical and actually then make it.
Basically this is what it is like to be in your 20’s.