An ongoing series where I share what I’m watching, listening to, and reading. Here are this Monday’s picks:
As someone who loves to take pictures, and is a big fan of street photography, this story really touched me. It’s nothing short of amazing and is absolutely inspiring.
It felt appropriate to introduce this week’s Read pick with a song by the author. Especially this song.
I must confess, it took me a while to get into the rhythm of this book. There’s something different about reading poets who turn to novel/non-fiction writing. Their language is laden with a beautiful density. It’s like the breath of their sentences is deeper than that of book writers because they typically have so much less space to work with. Their words are more carefully chosen and layered with meaning. Novelists have that, too, but not in the same capacity as poets. Patti Smith is a poet. Once I let her voice take over, I dove into the depths of words and language. “Just Kids” is about art, sacrifice, and most importantly, love. There were moments where I entirely identified with Smith’s thoughts, feelings and actions. Other moments, the more brutal ones, made me think about art and its place in my life: How much would I be willing to sacrifice for my passion? It also brought to mind this Carl Jung quote:
“The artist’s life cannot be otherwise than full of conflicts, for two forces are at war within him—on the one hand, the common longing for happiness, satisfaction and security in life, and on the other a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire. There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.”
There’s a ruthless passion in both Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, but I wondered if Smith ever wanted or needed the force of security. She makes clear Robert Mapplethorpe wanted it, but, during the time period the book covers, I wasn’t so sure about her. They sacrificed themselves physically, mentally and emotionally for the “divine gift of creative fire” and, through their sacrifice, changed the world(s) of art/music/photography/poetry — all of this while they were still just kids.
P.S. It always excites me to read books that take place literally outside my front stoop. There’s inspiration in stepping in the invisible footprints of the world’s great adventurers. While reading this book, there were a few times I stopped, walked out my door and over to the Hotel Chelsea just to read about that very building while standing in the lobby. I drank sangria in El Quijote while Smith’s words took me back to what it was like there in the 1969/1970. New York is a place full of ghosts and magic. Luckily, there are poets like Patti Smith who lead the exploration and became cartographers to the generations of young New York artists who will follow their paths.