A memoir for anyone who gets a little romantic about New York City in the 1960s and 1970s, Smith sketches out her early years in the city and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. Early on they were lovers, but for most of their time together (and up until Mapplethorpe’s death from AIDS in 1989), they had what could be called an artistic partnership. They shared their early, struggling years, both knowing they wanted to be artists but not knowing exactly how to go about it. The process of their experimentations and insertion of themselves into the art scene as well as the battle to just stay aﬂoat with very little during a time of growing crime make up most of the story. Smith adds in recollections of passing encounters with the likes of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, as well as a particularly amusing story of meeting Allen Ginsberg, who later became a good friend. Those who know the city may be entertained alone by the diﬀerent places they lived, including a few years at/near the Hotel Chelsea.
The story brings them right to the brink of their artistic maturity (and maybe a bit further, including a passing reference to “Because the Night,” Smiths’s one big hit), which is of course just when Mapplethorpe falls ill. I’ve never considered myself a Patti Smith fan, so this brought me a little further beyond mere respect for her inﬂuence.