And in light of the constant cosmological references and religious underpinnings, what slowly emerges as the backdrop of Smith's story is not spiritual guidance, but the duo's obsessive and collective devotion to the creative process. She tells of their foraging for junk to make jewelry, a personal pilgrimage to Arthur Rimbaud's hometown in France, shoplifting a copy of the poet's Illuminations, and how she mourned the deaths of beloved artists and musicians by penning verses in their honor. But most crucial was the encouragement she and Mapplethorpe passed back and forth in the form of both financial and emotional currency. "You need to show people what you can do," the mop-headed young photographer told his accomplice. "I'll get you a reading, Patti." Mapplethorpe encouraged Smith to experiment with new mediums and to showcase her words, while Smith sold treasured copies of used books to fund her counterpart's projects and begged him to begin taking photographs. He eventually acquiesced to her demands and wound up shooting the cover image for Horses.
Even though Smith would achieve far greater levels of commercial success than her counterpart, their symbiotic partnership had no room for rivalry. As Smith writes, when Mapplethorpe heard "Because the Night," her legendary collaboration with Bruce Springsteen, playing on the street, his "admiration without envy" was undeniable, as he grinningly ceded: "Patti ... you got famous before me." In spite of the gratitude directed toward the heavens, Just Kids is a mostly unfettered exposé of the duo's ruthless dedication and selfless collaboration, the ways in which Smith and Mapplethorpe lifted one another to greatness they could not have achieved alone -- something that speaks more heavily to artistic hunger than the providential grace upon which the icon rests her legacy.
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