Musician Patti Smith’s memoir of her friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe won lots of awards. I didn’t know who he was and I barely know Smith’s work but Critical Acclaim + $1 at Half Price Books + Rock Star/Pop Culture = I am there.
The big appeal to this book, in my opinion, is that it is a story of New York in the 1970s. In fact, I cannot believe that my friend Miss Busy hasn’t read it yet. You know when they say the city is like its own character in a story? Like that.
So. Patti and Robert begin as sort of a romantic couple, but Robert is a recovering Catholic coming to terms with homosexuality and Patti is geographically on the move quite a bit. Their relationship evolves as they go from starving artists to struggling artists to budding successes, and I daresay that the art makes them soul mates.
I was interested in Patti’s observations of her own feelings as Robert sort of tiptoes out of the closet and explores romantic and sexual relationships with men. Much of this happens while they are living together. She doesn’t over analyze and doesn’t apologize for her lack of analysis. She merely says that none of Robert’s other encounters/friendships/relationships had any effect on hers. She also pursued other encounters/friendships/relationships. She was secure in his love and in her place in his life.
There was some big deal name dropping, and some interesting descriptions of the art and music scene. What I found most interesting is Patti’s evolution as an artist. From drawing to poetry to music at the same time Robert was discovering photography. It is also, I expect, a clear reflection of the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is assigned reading somewhere a hundred years from now.