Patti Smith’s unique fusing of Rimbaud and Beat-inspired poetry to the shamanic energy of rock & roll culminated in her first record, Horses (Arista, $9.98), released in 1975, with a beautiful cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe. Her beautifully written memoir of her years as an emerging artist, Just Kids (Ecco, $27), is an inspiring tale told with tenderness, grace, wit, and vulnerability. It’s also a dual portrait of Patti and of Robert—her serendipitous protector, lover, collaborator, and lifelong friend—in a long-lost bohemian New York of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The book features memorable appearances by Sam Shepard, Gregory Corso, Harry Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and many other heroes, mentors, friends, and supporters. Just Kids is the perfect gift for present and future poets, musicians, and artists of all kinds, and describes the vision, will, and tenacity that is needed to succeed.
What struck me first was the photo of the beautiful young woman on the cover. She is Edina Yahana an environmental activist in Tanzania who’s teaching the men and women of her country the importance of growing trees. She is one of the seven women featured in this book, all working on issues that are important to their country’s development from care of AIDS patients to protection of orphans. Aminate Dieye created a program that trains young girls in non-traditional jobs. In Senegal, that’s not an easy thing to do. O’Donnell who’s a photographer has given us a look into the work each of these women is doing. Kimberley Sevcik wrote the text. There is also information on providing assistance to the women and their work.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sap when it comes to a good love story. I swoon over Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, laugh at Beatrice and Benedick of Much Ado About Nothing, and when David Copperfield finds true love after so many years of loneliness, I weep with joy.
And yet, all of these stories pale in comparison with how Calvin Trillin loved his wife Alice. It's not so much a book as part love letter, part tribute to the woman he treasured above all else, who died of cancer in 2001. This heart-wrenchingly beautiful, achingly funny and tender account of his life with his wife will leave you wondering and hoping, to paraphrase a young woman who writes to Trillin, if anyone will love you as much as Calvin loved Alice. If you've read any of Trillin's columns or books on food over the years, you've gotten to know a side of Alice as he shares her thoughts about his eating adventures.
Trillin freely admits in the book that Alice was the most wonderful woman he'd ever met, that he was honored by the fact that she loved him unconditionally, and that everything he ever wrote was an attempt to impress her. He loved her, flaws and all, in a way that all of us want to be loved, and every page of this slim volume bears testament to that fact. When you close this book, I hope you have tears in your eyes, not just for the loss of the lovely Alice, but at the blessing that love like this truly is.