Jim Carroll, 1950-2009

Jim Carroll died recently. He was slightly older than my parents, which is odd since while I never thought of him as my contemporary, I always considered him to be closer to myself and my own age than to theirs. Part of this is I think simply the nature of art. All art is contemporary. When I first read “The Basketball Diaries” I was around thirteen, I think, and I was reading about a teenager, who lived a life so unlike my own.

I’ve read the book cover to cover a few times and certain sections dozens of times. I remember the film version of the book which starred a young Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m not a big fan of the movie but it’s a flick that made DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg and there are scenes in that film that have stuck with me years later. The Jim Carroll Band and the 1980 release “Catholic Boy” is considered the last album of the American punk movement.

I’ve always been most interested in his poetry. Living at the Movies. The Book of Nods. Fear of Dreaming. Void of Course. I got to meet Jim once years ago at a poetry reading and I approached him after in line with a bunch of other people in their teens and twenties with our dog-eared paperbacks.

What is striking looking back and reading his work was how despite all the labels that were affixed to him, how he refused to be defined by him. He may have been a punk, a poet, a rock musician, a member of Warhol’s factory, a diarist, an addict. He was so many things but he refused to be any of them. He was always moving, always changing and adapting.

His influence may be scattershot. His best work may be spread out here and there in poems and fragments and songs dispersed over decades but at the heart of it all was an artist who wanted to change the world and who refused to be defined by anything including his own art. There’s something to be said for that.

I’ve read that he’d been working on a novel, The Petting Zoo, for a number of years. I would have liked to have read that novel.

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One Response to “Jim Carroll, 1950-2009”

  1. Bill Bartmann Says:

    what a great site and informative posts, I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

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