What was purchased by my father as a gift with the understanding that it was an autobiography by Patti Smith, turned out to be only partially what he expected to be giving me. Patti tells the story of her early adult life from the perspective of her remarkable relationship with controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe. As it turns out my father probably would not care to read about or see his works and I have yet to “google” actual images for fear my son may peer around the corner. However, what I have found in this book is the story of two outsiders who were able to lean on each other in the bad times and build each other up in the good times; a truly remarkable tale of a time lost in American history. I find myself jealous of Patti finding such a person in her youth and all the freedom they shared. I also learned that she is so much more than I thought she was; an incredible writer and a gifted artist not only in song, but in drawings and poetry as well. I also learned that she has a lot more religious footholds than I would have expected. When I heard the words “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.” I interpreted it in an entirely different way than she meant it. I neglected to note that her acknowledgement of his dying for someone’s sins did not in fact disclaim him or rebel against him in any way. She was trying to make a point to herself that she must take responsibility for her own actions and choices. Now it is my favorite saying, whereas before it just made me uncomfortable. Not because disbelief or even blasphemy makes me uncomfortable usually…it made me feel uncomfortable mainly because I did not understand what she was trying to say and I feared one day having to explain it to someone. Now I’d love to. I think many people could benefit from this morsel of wisdom. These days far too many people believe someone else will clean up their mess, when in truth who do we really have to blame but ourselves.
I would recommend this book highly to anyone with an open mind that will not be offended by references to alternative sexuality. Behind all of that it is a truly moving tale of two artists who helped each other make it in life.