While reading this book I was thinking about how much Patti Smith's music has meant to me. Not only the music but her attitude, hey, after seeing the cover of the Album "Easter" I did not shave my underarms for a long time... not that it was much needed, young as I was, but it was a symbol of the strong Female and I being a teenage feminist (who thought that meant "I can carry my own suitcase") took this seriously.
Many years later I was lucky enough to see Patti Smith play for a smaller audience at the American Patrons of Tate Artist's dinner in New York. Enthusiastic as I was, I was the only standing ovationer, and since it would have been too embarrassing to sit down again, I stood there for quite a long time, thinking should one not stand when it's a dinner? But deep inside I felt that they all wished they could stand too... Right? Well it was that good to me.
Patti Smith is bearing it all here, I admire her honesty! The book is personal, touching and inspiring.
Reading about her and Robert Mapplethorpe's meeting, love affair and their life-long friendship makes you think of how a chance meeting can be life transforming.
They struggled together, surviving on small jobs, even hustling (Robert) and at the same time brought out the best artistic traits in each other through an endless amount of support.
They knew they wanted to be artists, there was no way they would not be, but how and with what followed a long set of trials from drawing to writing, acting, and spoken word. To become one Rock Star and one revolutionary Photographer.
"We were Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the World."
The road travelled is described here from Patti's childhood to their first meeting and ends with Robert dying of AIDS in 1989.
"There were days, rainy days, when the streets of Brooklyn were worthy of a photograph, every window the lens of a Leica, the view grainy and immobile. We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until exhausted, we fell into bed. We lay in each other's arms, still awkward but happy, exchanging breathless kisses into sleep."
... last letter:
Often as I lie awake I wonder if you are also lying awake. Are you in pain or feeling alone?
You drew me from the darkest period of my young life, sharing with me the sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together. Your work, coming from a fluid source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of holding hands with God. Remember, through everything, you have always held that hand, grip it hard Robert, and don't let go.
The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occurred to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.
I presume that I don't need to invite you to read this beautiful love story, you will just have to!