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Friday, February 3, 2012

Why I want to give Just Kids by Patti Smith

On April 23rd I hope to be passing out 20 copies of Patti Smith's memoir, "Just Kids." I feel like World Book Night and this particular book are a perfect pairing. WBN is about finding people with whom to share your passion as is Patti's story.

In the late 1960s, Patti Smith (still just a kid) moved to New York City in order to better understand who she was and who she wanted to be. There she met Robert Mapplethorpe and began a relationship that would transform each of their lives. Patti and Robert each knew that they wanted to create art.
"I understood that what matters is the work: the string of words propelled by God becoming a poem, the weave of color and graphite scrawled upon the sheet that magnifies His motion. To achieve within a work a perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind come a light, life-charged."
Art, any kind of art, is the spark of life.

"Just Kids" is about is the relationship that Patti and Robert shared. How they pushed each other to experiment with their creations. Patti prompting Robert to take his own photographs and Robert in turn prompting her to sing some of her poems. They each found great success through these endeavors and built up communities around themselves dedicated to the importance of art. However, even more than these two people and their art "Just Kids" is about art and passion as a whole. It is about the need to express and the need to experience art. The need to share these experiences.

The gulf of idealism runs deep throughout the book. It makes me wonder about just how much the world has changed. Has the vastness of the internet and our global community killed idealism? The host of snark and the altar of irony have made a mockery of true feeling. Can we be "Just Kids" any longer? Then I realize that all is not lost; the soul of the world is not dead. Books like this are being written. Art is alive in the world and people are gathering in its name. Promoting art and literature and true passion through community involvement is the goal of World Book Night. It starts with the distribution of one million books by passionate givers, but it does not end there. It extends to new conversations, new relationships, and new communities.

At a time when people are saying that book culture is dying and no wants to meet face to face to discuss books here we have fifty thousand individuals who are going out to do just that. World Book Night was established to create new readers, but I know it will do more than that. World Book Night will serve as a shot of adrenaline into literary communities. More people will be going into bookstores, passing books around, and sharing their literary experiences - that's the power of idealism.

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