by Patti Smith
Patti Smith was my teenage hero; reading her books later in life has made me admire her more than ever. As a rocker, poet, photographer, and now memoirist, she follows her heart and her amazing mind to places that most of us can't or won't go, and she makes us happy to join her in her dream-like, feverish state that shows her an everyday world that's full of magic and meaning and books and friendships and quiet thoughts. She's a big fan of Haruki Murakami's novels, and her nonfiction prose has a similar flow and feel to his writing. Just Kids is a coming of age story set in 1960s and 1970s New York, centered on her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, living in the Chelsea Hotel, and being an integral part of the explosive artistic and social movement of that time and place. Reading the book feels immediate and amazing, not like peering through the clumsy, bragging window opened by a typical celebrity memoir, but like a long, superbly-written letter from a friend you've lost touch with, crossed with something like an oracular vision of youth.
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