Tuesday, March 09, 2010

About a Boy

I'm not like my other friends. Shocking!

They are voracious readers, mostly of novels. I've always had a tough time getting into most novels, most likely because I choose poorly when it comes to them. Just ask my friends - I don't see them letting me pick a book any time soon for our off-again/off-again (no, not a typo) book club.

Last time, my selection was A Dive From Clausen's Pier. I blame Terry Gross for making even bad books and authors sound interesting. I can't even tell you how many books I've bought from listening to Fresh Air - and so far I have yet to be remotely thrilled with any of them. My friends rightfully slammed me for my choice. I don't think we've had a joint book read since. It was that bad.

Because of my bad choices - and this has been a life-long pattern, by the way - anymore I normally stick to history, memoirs, biographies and auto-biographies. You can't go wrong reading seven books about Patty Hearst, Mount Everest or the Vietnam War, can you?

So I just finished reading Patti Smith's book - Just Kids.

Not an auto-biography, not quite a memoir. It centers as a telling of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. She strays a little off the direct relationship here and there, but she always brings it around quite nicely. For the first two-thirds, Smith rarely talks about herself where it does not involve Mapplethorpe.

But what I'm loving is her writing style. I have always loved her as a songwriter/artist, but those are snippets into how well she can put pen to paper - and you just know that is how she wrote it.

I'd say, "oh to live from 1968-1973.....", but I was alive. I just was not living at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. I was saying to Rebecca, because even though this is not a book club book, she was reading it at the same time I did, I am totally envious of Smith and Mapplethorpe.

Perhaps it is just her prose, but to be in that hotel - and running into Grace Slick, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in the hotel bar, all at the same time? It can't just be her telling of it, it had to be incredible.

Or to have William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg staying in the same hotel and become your friends???? Or Sam Shepard to be your lover? I'd say "surreal", but that would be reserved for running into Salvador Dali in the lobby while you're holding a stuffed raven and have him comment on it.

That doesn't even cover her friendships with Todd Rundgren (really?), Jim Carroll or a relationship with a member of Blue Oyster Cult (really, really???). This was all before she ever became famous in her own right.

You'd think it was some really great acid trip, but it's not. At times it almost borders on namedropping, but she never quite goes over that line.

I suppose this book can be as much about her unorthodox relationship with Mapplethorpe as it is with Smith's fascination with 19th century poet, Arthur Rimbaud. You do not go too many pages where Rimbaud is not referenced somewhere.

Now, I like Patti Smith as an artist and always have (even seen her perform live, if you remember), but I think anyone would find this book fascinating. I can let Becky chime in when she finally gets around to catching up on my blog.

Song by: Patti Smith


Dith said...

Did you have to bring up Clausen's Pier again?

rebecca said...

I thought the book was amazing. Amazing, start to finish. I was expecting her to be so much more like Candy Slice, flopping around in a pool of her own vomit. She was so articulate and sweet and loving. Loved it, loved her, until she decided to try to bilk Mapplethorpe's lover for the money to go off to Africa for some reasons I couldn't figure out.