Patti Smith's publishing a sequel to 'Just Kids,' let the anticipatory joy commence
It was just announced that Patti Smith is releasing a sequel to her 2010 memoir, Just Kids, out October 6, 2015— and we’re already preparing ourselves for the gorgeous emotional roller coaster it will most certainly be.
M Train will pick up where Just Kids left off, and explore the second half of Smith’s life, including her experiences traveling the world and her marriage to Fred “Sonic” Smith.
As if the cover weren’t enough to get us excited (“the first and last” shot of Smith at Cafe ‘Ino, where the book begins), the memoir’s blurb has us overflowing with anticipation.
If you need an idea of how powerful Smith’s writing can be, her last memoir is a good start. The first time I read Just Kids, I was getting ready to leave New York City and move home to Los Angeles.
“No one expected me. Everything awaited me,” Smith wrote; and I almost called the whole thing off.
Smith talks about the magic of New York in the 1970’s — a place where you could sustain yourself on art, rub elbows with Burroughs and Ginsberg on a weeknight, fall in love (with Robert Mapplethorpe, in this case), and actually learn something from your heartbreak.
“Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed,” Smith wrote. “It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”
I lived in New York for five years, and I was unhappy for most of them — but there were moments that I knew I couldn’t have experienced anywhere else, and in those moments I could see why so many stay forever. Just Kids reminded me of all of them. Of course, Patti Smith captured a New York City that I never really knew — one where I might have stayed, one where I might have tried to make it work. Like Smith, I was tired, and I was hungry; but I wasn’t as brave or as self-assured. I picked a career instead of what I loved, I burned myself out, and I went home. Practicality had beat out hunger; but Just Kids presented the alternative. At the time, it had felt like Smith was giving me the option to stay.
“Everything distracted me,” she wrote, “but most of all myself.”
When you talk to people who have left New York City, it often feels like a conversation about defeat. Some sound ready to jump back in the ring for another round if given the right circumstances — it’s a perpetual chip on the shoulder — while others know it’s just a city, and what’s magic for one person is hell for another. Being young in New York is a conversation that bewitches us, one that many writers have explored in essays and poems and everything in between — perhaps most notably, Joan Didion’s Goodbye to All That, which has since inspired a collection of short essays of the same name in which other writers try to deconstruct their experiences, too.
There’s a reason we all write about it, but few do it with the tenderness and magnetism of Patti Smith in Just Kids. The book is more than a memoir — it’s a beautiful depiction of love, of passion, of grief.
“[You] could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening,” she wrote. “Perhaps it was an awareness of time passing, the last summer of the decade. Sometimes I just wanted to raise my hands and stop. But stop what? Maybe just growing up.”
Just Kids is a heartbreaking memoir, filled with gorgeous sentences that will absolutely destroy you. Smith is in her element, every word filled with intent. She’s a poet. It shows. The book should be required reading for any young woman who feels a little lost, who needs a reminder that every experience brings us closer to where we’re supposed to be. Just Kids taught me about love — it’s a love story, after all — about growing up, about believing in your art. And if the National Book Award for Non-Fiction winner is any indication of what’s to come, M Train will be just as essential, and we can’t wait to read it.