Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Patti Smith devotees know that she writes electrifying songs and spirited and spiritual poems, yet her first narrative book, a portrait of the artist as a young searcher times two, is a revelation. In a spellbinding memoir as notable for its restraint as for its lucidity, its wit as well as its grace, Smith tells the story of how she and Robert Mapplethorpe found each other, a true and abiding love that survived his coming out as gay, and the path to art in New York City during the heady late 1960s and early 1970s. Smith promised the controversial photographer that she would tell their story as he faced death in 1989 and then weathered more tragedies as she lost her husband and brother. Consequently, Smith brings the piercing clarity born of pain and renewal to this at once matter-of-fact and fairy tale-like chronicle of two romantics living hand-to-mouth as disciples to art. As much as she succeeds in revealing little-known aspects of Mapplethorpe's temperament, it is Smith herself who fascinates, from her earliest childhood memories of entering into the radiance of imagination ; to her stints as a factory worker; to the loneliness of being 19, unmarried, poor, and pregnant; to her fortitude during her penniless and homeless days and nights on the streets of New York in 1967. A lifelong book lover, Smith works in Scribner's bookstore as she and Mapplethorpe seek their true callings while living in the now legendary Chelsea Hotel, a crazy laboratory for experimentation artistic and otherwise. With appearances by Janis Joplin, Allen Ginsberg, Sam Shepard, Johnny Winter, and many other intriguing and influential figures, Smith covers a remarkable swath of cultural and personal history in this beautifully crafted, vivid, and indelible look back. Readers can only hope that Smith will continue to tell her stories and share her visions.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In 1967, 21-year-old singer-song writer Smith, determined to make art her life and dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities in Philadelphia to live this life, left her family behind for a new life in Brooklyn. When she discovered that the friends with whom she was to have lived had moved, she soon found herself homeless, jobless, and hungry. Through a series of events, she met a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe who changed her life-and in her typically lyrical and poignant manner Smith describes the start of a romance and lifelong friendship with this man: "It was the summer Coltrane died. Flower children raised their arms... and Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, and the summer of love...." This beautifully crafted love letter to her friend (who died in 1989) functions as a memento mori of a relationship fueled by a passion for art and writing. Smith transports readers to what seemed like halcyon days for art and artists in New York as she shares tales of the denizens of Max's Kansas City, the Hotel Chelsea, Scribner's, Brentano's, and Strand bookstores. In the lobby of the Chelsea, where she and Mapplethorpe lived for many years, she got to know William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Johnny Winter. Most affecting in this tender and tough memoir, however, is her deep love for Mapplethorpe and her abiding belief in his genius. Smith's elegant eulogy helps to explain the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe's life and work. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Smith's remarkable musical achievement was finding the common ground between punk rock and beat poetry-the spontaneity and intense, sloppy energy-to create music that was throbbing with life. With that in mind, it's a mystery why her first book of prose-a memoir of her relationship with the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and their struggles to find a place in the New York City of Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground-feels so inert. It reads like a first draft, as though Smith strained to achieve clarity in prose without sacrificing the poetry. This story of the misadventures of Smith's youth occasionally sparks interest with an anecdote about one of an endless parade of famed Greenwich Village iconoclasts (Jimi Hendrix, Allen Ginsberg, and Janis Joplin make cameos), but the renowned poet and lyricist's storytelling is just disappointing. Verdict For Smith or Mapplethorpe completists only. Readers interested in the milieu should consider Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's Please Kill Me. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/09.]-Ned Resnikoff, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Musician, poet and visual artist Smith (Trois, 2008, etc.) chronicles her intense life with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe during the 1960s and '70s, when both artists came of age in downtown New York. Both born in 1946, Smith and Mapplethorpe would become widely celebratedshe for merging poetry with rock 'n' roll in her punk-rock performances, he as the photographer who brought pornography into the realm of art. Upon meeting in the summer of 1967, they were hungry, lonely and gifted youths struggling to find their way and their art. Smith, a gangly loser and college dropout, had attended Bible school in New Jersey where she took solace in the poetry of Rimbaud. Mapplethorpe, a former altar boy turned LSD user, had grown up in middle-class Long Island. Writing with wonderful immediacy, Smith tells the affecting story of their entwined young lives as lovers, friends and muses to one another. Eating day-old bread and stew in dumpy East Village apartments, they forged fierce bonds as soul mates who were at their happiest when working together. To make money Smith clerked in bookstores, and Mapplethorpe hustled on 42nd Street. The author colorfully evokes their days at the shabbily elegant Hotel Chelsea, late nights at Max's Kansas City and their growth and early celebrity as artists, with Smith winning initial serious attention at a St. Mark's Poetry Project reading and Mapplethorpe attracting lovers and patrons who catapulted him into the arms of high society. The book abounds with stories about friends, including Allen Ginsberg, Janis Joplin, William Burroughs, Sam Shepard, Gregory Corso and other luminaries, and it reveals Smith's affection for the citythe "gritty innocence" of the couple's beloved Coney Island, the "open atmosphere" and "simple freedom" of Washington Square. Despite separations, the duo remained friends until Mapplethorpe's death in 1989. "Nobody sees as we do, Patti," he once told her. Riveting and exquisitely crafted. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.