Just Kids Question #13: Oh, What A Woman!

by Patti Smith

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Just Kids Question #13: Oh, What A Woman!

Unread postby fireflydances » Sun Sep 01, 2013 6:39 pm

Jim and I had some very sweet times. I'm sure there were downs as well, but my memories are served with nostalgia and humor. Ours were ragtag days and nights, as quixotic as Keats and as rude as the lice we both came to suffer, each they had originated from the other as we underwent a tedious regimen of Kwell lice shampooing in any one of the unmanned Chelsea Hotel bathrooms.

Just Kids, pg. 167

A number of years ago I read a memoir by the New York poet Jim Carroll called Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries 1971-1973 (1987) I believe I read it after Just Kids because I don't think I would have noticed the tiny vignette otherwise.

Jim's wonderful and extremely rude and funny memoir tracks over many of the same events and people as Just Kids. In fact, in re-reading both, I began to imagine that the two writers crossing back and forth over the same set of streets, just narrowly missing each other in their fastidious attempt to capture the moment.

In addition to being a magnificent poet, Jim was very funny both on the page and on stage. I've been to a number of poetry readings over the years, and usually they are rather dry events --even the way the words are read seems deliberately designed to drain every molecule of life out of them. And while I never had the good fortune to hear Jim in person, I have listened to him over and over on You Tube. Because he simply makes me laugh or gasp with amazement. Prose or poem or just Jim rolling up on stage and saying hi -- all are unforgettable.

Jim Carroll was one of our tidbits. And within the tidbit I placed a small jewel that I hoped would be discovered by others. The name of the video is "Day at the Races." Please go find it and listen to it.

Yes it's rude, it's blue humor, and if you find such not to your liking, don't listen. But if you do...


Back when I set out the video I asked a question: Who is Jenny Ann?

In his introduction to Forced Entries Jim states that his diary "is not the literal truth and is not meant to be historical recounting of the period. The entries were consciously embellished and fictionalized to some extent. My purpose was simply to convey the texture of my experiences and feelings for that period."

He also indicates that names were changed and that, "Although I have a very solid memory for dialogue, I did, at times, have to reconstruct things I said, and gave in to some temptations to ‘go off’ a bit, mainly for the sake of humor. Humor, I've found, has an uncanny ability to create its own energy and push on a writer against his will."

That said, I think it would be fun to take both writers' descriptions of this event and compare them. What do we learn about Jim's opinion of Patti? What do we learn about each writer's style? And when we read a memoir, what are we looking for? History or art?
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: Just Kids Question #13: Oh, What A Woman!

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Sep 02, 2013 3:14 am

:lol: I think Jim Carrolls version was very funny, Patti on the other hand just recounted it in a more matter of fact way. I think it shows how much he admired her though as an extraordinary person, how much he enjoyed spending time with her, I think also showed a side we maybe don't see in her own book the fun loving side her humour maybe. Of course we don't know exactly how true Jim's version is, it might just be very embellished.
I think with memoirs we are looking for an aspect of the person who is writing the memoir maybe an insight into the person. Since they are written from their viewpoint and from their memories it may not be 100% acurate but its how they remember it. Maybe a bit of history maybe a bit of entertainment not sure I look for art as such but a well written memoir that keeps you engaged and Patti's certainly did.

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Re: Just Kids Question #13: Oh, What A Woman!

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Sep 02, 2013 10:28 am

Great answer GG!! :ok:

By art I guess I was going for the opposite of history -- and that could be entertainment. Lots of memoir writers are very concerned with getting it right but I think 'right' might leave out that sort of undefinable quality that gives us insight into the writer.

It was fun to see the same incident described such different ways. And I do think Jim really captures Patti in that little tale, no matter how real or not.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: Just Kids Question #13: Oh, What A Woman!

Unread postby Liz » Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:11 pm

I couldn't get past the shock. :yikes: :lol:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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