One of the reasons I started a project devoted to personal storytelling is my love of and devotion to reading memoirs of people both famous and obscure. (Most people who’ve found their way here share this passion, and the true memoir obsessive might enjoy my interview with Ben Yagoda, who wrote a book about the history of the memoir.)
I just finished Patti Smith’s Just Kids, a memoir about her first few years in New York that’s part portrait of the artist becoming an artist and part love letter to her best friend and muse, the artist Robert Mapplethorpe. I’m sure in years to come, and in updates to Yagoda’s book, it will become part of the great memoir canon; an example of a book that takes you inside a very specific time in someone’s life with depth and color and what feel like every drop of trueness the author had to give. Others have written much on Just Kids.
At the same time I was reading Patti’s Smith’s memoir of this important moment in her life, I was finishing up a draft of SMITH Magazine’s forthcoming book, The Moment, 125 stories from writers famous and obscure about a watershed moment in each one’s life. Memoirs, by virtue of the form, are full of moments. And given that I’ve been so immersed in moments lately, it’s not surprising that I’m pretty calibrated these days to spot them. So I wanted to share a lovely passage from Just Kids. Here, Patti’s a teenage girl living in South Jersey when her father decided to take her and her three siblings to the Museum of Art in Philadelphia.