Although I'm enjoying it, I'm also finding Patti Smith's Just Kids slightly saddening. Although part of it is that I once saw her play live with someone I regret not knowing as well as I did then, it's more than that. What was so wonderful about seeing her play live is the enthusiasm she is able to pass undiluted and to the crowd as a whole for the possibilities of what is basically fairly uncomplicated rock music. You hear Because The Night, and not just that, and you're fiercely certain and celebratory of your joys and your entitlements to them, all of you all together all at once. I saw Rage Against The Machine at the height of their powers and my vulnerability to that kind of thing, I saw The Pixies play when I thought my chance had been and gone nearly a decade before I knew I was missing it, but Patti Smith on the site of a derelict steelworks by the shores of the Mediterreanan is I think easily the best gig I've ever been to.
What's clear from the book is that the sense of the world's openness to youth and energy and a commitment to them she manages to invoke in and with her audiences has structured her whole life. She went to New York and slept rough because that's where she wanted to be and was sure it'd work out in the end; she worked shit jobs in shit places and didn't eat to buy art supplies; she upped sticks and moved into the Chelsea Hotel with Robert Mapplethorpe when he was sick having no idea how they'd pay the rent. It's not that she's sure that the world'll accommodate itself to her - far from it - but rather that she's sure that she can bear the costs of whatever battles she has to fight and that they'll be worth bearing. In the end, the capacity of a kind of democratic, egalitarian wonder at the world to make something beautiful of the sacrifices it has to make in order to win out give it a real courage and resilience. Its openness makes it almost unbreakable. The sad thing about that, of course, is how difficult it is to replicate.