Johnny Depp called this book a “poetic masterpiece, a rare and privileged invitation to unlatch a treasure chest” and although he may be an eccentric hollywood/rockstar/model god with an alcohol problem I must side with him on this one.
It. is. so. good.
You-don’t-even-have-to-be-a-fan-of-Patti-Smith-or-her-music-to-enjoy-it kind of good, even though it’s basically just her life spread out on paper – I probably know about one or two songs of hers and that’s it. To me, the number one win about it is the elegant, unpretentious prose she uses throughout the whole of the novel and never, not for one sentence, forsakes for clichéd turns of phrases. It’s one of those books I can’t read without having a pen nearby because there are so many paragraphs I simply have to underline because they ring with so much truth and honesty. The story begins with her childhood, already dipped in mysticism and signs and visions but quickly evolves into much more, the story of a young artist hungry for life and art and tragedy who finds herself in the not-so-gentle arms of a New York City in the sixties, the city itself spilling with poets dressed in rags, artists barely scraping by in moldy apartments and unknown singers gathering in dimly lit cafes to sing songs which will later be known as the songs of a whole generation (people like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are just a few of the names that keep cropping up in this memoir). It talks of her tempestuous and all-consuming and life-altering friendship/relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorne whom she never really lost sight of since she first laid eyes on him and it talks of the rock bottom you have to hit in order to be able to create great art.
It’s filled with realness. It just talks of life and makes you want to wander off to create your own art after you’ve closed the book. I read it on a long train journey and all I wanted to do as soon as I wiped those tears of my cheek (the end of the book is going to hit you hard) was to look ruefully out of the train window and write introspective poems about the fleetingness of life.
No but seriously, if you’re into music history, poetry or art in general, you’ll like this. (And if you don’t trust my sole judgment: The National Book Award Jury liked it, too and awarded it with the prestigious prize in 2010 when it was first published so, you know.)