Indeed, the most interesting parts of the book are the anecdotes about the great and the near great. Allen Ginsberg, thinking she's a pretty boy, buys Smith a cheese sandwich at the Automat when she is short of money. Gregory Corso falls asleep in her arm chair while reading her poems and burns a hole in the arm. She goes out to dinner with Sam Sheppard, not realizing he is a famous playwright. Maplethorpe takes her to meet his Catholic family and tells them they are married. She visits Jim Morrison's grave in Paris and is scolded by an old crone caretaker because Americans have no respect for their poets.
Her own prose is at times very poetic, at times somewhat pretentious. At her best she has a knack for just the right inventive image. The first man walking on the moon is putting "rubber treads on a pearl of the gods." Jim Carroll "shot stuff in his freckled hand, like the darker side of Huckleberry Finn." On the other hand she calls a Bob Dylan obsessed fan's analysis of one of his songs an "endless labyrinth of incomprehensible logic." She says Maplethorpe "sought to elevate aspects of male experience, to imbue homosexuality with mysticism." Often the high flown mystical language makes an ironic contrast to the sleaziness of the one small room they shared at the Chelsea Hotel and the second hand outfits she is constantly describing.
As memoirs go, the most impressive thing about Just Kids is its honesty. Smith's description of her life with Maplethorpe has the ring of truth. She doesn't seem to have tidied things up. Drugs, sex, poverty—they're all there. Nothing is made to look rosy: except that there were two young people and they had their art and they had each other, and for a time that was enough.