‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith is a difficult book to describe or characterise. It is an autobiography through the lens of a sometimes brilliant and sometimes hurtful relationship.
I could start by describing it as raw since the tale it tells is certainly a raw one. I could call it unadorned since the language is simple and unadorned. At the same time it is romantic since it is above all dedicated to Smith’s love for Robert Mapplethorpe. We could also add honest since Smith does not gild the lily and honestly tells of stealing and cheating.
Smith quickly moves through her childhood and only really gets into detail when she tells of falling pregnant, being dismissed from teacher’s college and giving up the child for adoption at the age of nineteen. Soon after she leaves New Jersey for New York, already seeking the life of an artist and immediately runs into Mapplethorpe who shows her a place to sleep and then disappears before resurfacing when they meet for the second time at the bookshop Brentano’s.
What follows is a love story, a love of the artistic life, of New York, of the times and the artists that inhabited it but most of all a love of Mapplethorpe that changed but did not decrease when they stopped as lovers and he realised his homosexuality. Nor did it seem to change as both climbed the ladder of fame and success.
I love reading science fiction but tend to stick to a few authors. Fortunately I have an older brother who not only spreads me to further fields but reminds me of old pastures that still hold great value.
The Kragen certainly did that. I’ve read and enjoyed Jack Vance before but had read neither this novella or the novel “Blue World” that it was later expanded into. Thank you, Graeme, for reminding me of Vance’s quality. I’ll now have to ferret out some further gems.
The Kragen was out of print for many years until this recent (2007) edition from the small Subterranean Press, who seem to produce some quality volumes.
The Kragen is set on a world entirely without land, where the people feed King Kragen to keep him happy and content to shield them from the smaller Kragen. From there Vance explores a number of interesting themes. The world is certainly a believable one.
I found it well written, readable, well paced and enjoyable. A marvelous, light read, everything I want from a novella.
This slim volume is an excellent read for the young adult. It reminds me strongly of Henlein’s ‘juvenilia’.
Theodora Baumgartner is a teenager who suddenly finds herself an unwilling space cadet and this short story unfolds from there. It rolls along at a good pace and I found myself eating it up in a single sitting. I’m certainly going to read a little more of Willis’s work after this.
Since this was a birthday gift I’m not going to complain about a single short story in a hardcover edition.