Patti Smith's Sinatra Reference
In today's New York Times Janet Maslin reviews "Just Kids" by Patti Smith. Writes Maslin,
Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were both born in 1946, at a time when “the iceman” and “the last of the horse-drawn wagons” could still be seen on city streets. Ms. Smith points this out at the start of her tenderly evocative memoir, “Just Kids,” but there is even stronger evidence that this book dates back a long time.
“Just Kids” captures a moment when Ms. Smith and Mapplethorpe were young, inseparable, perfectly bohemian and completely unknown, to the point in which a touristy couple in Washington Square Park spied them in the early autumn of 1967 and argued about whether they were worth a snapshot. The woman thought they looked like artists. The man disagreed, saying dismissively, “They’re just kids.”
How hard is it for Ms. Smith to turn back the clock to this innocent time? Hard. Exactly as hard as it was for Bob Dylan to describe himself as a wide-eyed young newcomer to Greenwich Village in “Chronicles, Volume I,” a memoir that “Just Kids” deliberately resembles.
In describing the day that Mapplethorpe created his exquisitely androgynous image of her in white shirt, black pants and black jacket for the cover of her “Horses” album, she describes deliberately giving the jacket a rakish “Frank Sinatra style” fling over her shoulder. “I was full of references,” she says, invoking them explicitly throughout the book. A Patti Smith calendar would include Joan of Arc’s birthday, the day of the Guernica bombing and the day she, as a young bookstore clerk, sat among Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Grace Slick in a bar feeling “an inexplicable sense of kinship with these people.”
Your virtually anonymous bloguer@ was also born in 1946. In Newark. It's true that the iceman still came, also the milkman and the Dugan's man. Being "perfectly bohemian", however, was harder work. I don't think I ever really mastered it. I tried. Hard. But somehow, no, I didn't achieve it. I'm sure there are still witnesses to my many dismal failures. And then, suprisingly, it didn't really matter. Not any more. That was swept away by the new, different poses that would flower into Technicolor Hippiness. Bohemianism, Beatnikism were just gone.
I'm sure Patti Smith's book is worth the reading. For me it's almost sure to be a jealous glimpse of the still unachievable.