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'Grandmother of Punk' Reads From Her Book in Brooklyn

By Janet Upadhye | August 6, 2012 1:31pm | Updated on August 6, 2012 1:42pm

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Legendary rocker, poet, author, mother, and icon of New York counterculture Patti Smith reads from her book Woolgathering on Monday, Aug. 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Though the “Grandmother of Punk" is mainly known for her poetic songs — such as Because the Night, which was co-written by Bruce Springsteen and can be hummed from memory by anyone over 20 years old — she is also beloved by many readers.

“Her books are some of our bestsellers,” said Community Bookstore co-owner, Stephanie Valdez. “She has a quite a following.”

Just Kids, published in 2010, is a memoir of Smith’s life in Manhattan during the late ‘60s and ‘70s. In particular, the book focuses on her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who was known for his large black-and-white portraits. Mapplethorpe later came out as gay, and tragically died of AIDS in 1989. Both Smith and Mapplethorpe studied art at the Pratt Institute in Fort Greene.

Woolgathering, first published in 1992 and re-released in 2011, is the story of her more personal inner life and thoughts, beginning with her childhood. “I think Woolgathering is the expression of an artist sitting in the exact center of her life (she finished the book on her 45th birthday),” writes David L. Ulin in an L.A. Times review of the book. “[She is] considering where she's been and where she wants to go.”

Smith, despite her looming presence in the music scene, was not easy to book for the engagement. After months of trying, Community Bookstore was able to find a slice of time when Smith was taking a small break from her concert tour. And finally Smith agreed.

“I was trying to think of who would be the ultimate author to read in such a dramatic venue,” Valdez said, referring to the Manhattan skyline that will be the backdrop for the reading. “She was the first person to come to mind.”

There are 300 available seats, but based on the amount of calls and emails concerning the event, Valdez expects an overflow.

The event starts at 7 p.m. Smith will read at the Granite Prospect stairs at Pier 1 and then be interviewed by Community Bookstore co-owner Ezra Goldstein. The park entrance is nearest to Furman and Old Fulton streets.