MixedThe A.V. ClubPatti Smith’s Just Kids is ostensibly about her long-running romantic and professional entanglements with photographer and provocateur Robert Mapplethorpe, but the book is at its most rewarding when it’s following blind alleys. Run-ins with a blissed-out Jimi Hendrix, collaborations with playwright Sam Shepard, accidental dates with Allen Ginsberg over cheese sandwiches: This meandering memoir is rife with juicy snapshots of ’70s New York cool at its grittiest and most seductive. But while Smith succeeds in communicating the thrill of social climbing at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB, she doesn’t provide much evidence of Mapplethorpe’s supposed appeal ... a few more clues would go a long way toward making her devotion relatable ... Like an art-school freshman constantly updating her Facebook with whatever she hopes will impress, Smith employs every allusion and simile she can to prove her high-culture bona fides. She’s especially fond of invoking Jean Genet when she shoplifts (and Arthur Rimbaud absolutely whenever), but she’s smart enough to show a little self-awareness about her appropriation, admitting \'I was full of references\' after she throws a coat over her shoulder—Sinatra-style—during her iconic photo shoot. That all-incorporating, wide-eyed appreciation can grate, but it’s also fitting for an examination of how art informs and reforms our lives, and how today’s icons will be emulated by tomorrow’s.
PositiveThe A.V. ClubWhile Eli is especially ill-suited to his current occupation as a hired gun for the shadowy Commodore, his colder-blooded brother Charlie is a perfect fit. Together, they’ve been tasked with putting an end to one Hermann Kermitt Warm, a prospector with a claim outside Sacramento; Kermitt’s innovations in gold-panning situate him somewhere between chemistry buff and sorcerer. Separating Warm and the Sisters brothers, though, are hundreds of miles of prairie wasteland and a dozen loosely connected vignettes that include, among other things, hex-dodging, amateur dentistry, and brain-damaged horses. In all of them, life and fortunes hang in the balance, and often the right choice is about as clear as a cup of cowboy coffee.