Archive for the ‘Jim Carroll’ Category

More on Jim Carroll

October 1, 2009

Alex Williams wrote a great article in the Styles section of the Sunday New York Times about Jim Carroll. It’s a n interesting look at the man he was and his more recent life, which for those of us who didn’t know him has largely remained hidden from view because we always think of him as a younger punk poet/musician.

It does mention “The Petting Zoo” his novel in progress, which was apparently in final edits and Viking  plans to publish the novel posthumously, possibly next year. I feel a little bad about being excited about the novel given that the man just died.

Further Thoughts on Jim Carroll…

September 16, 2009

It’s funny what occurs to you initially and how often we forget things. Hearing of Jim Carroll I immediately thought of the books, his work, and yet I forgot one of the most memorable and remembered aspect of the film version of “The Basketball Diaries.”

Everyone who’s seen the flick remembers the scene where Leo in a slo-mo scene bursts into his classroom proceeds to gun down the teacher and his classmates in a dream sequence.

Back in the mid-nineties (god that sounds like it was forever ago and not a little more than a decade and it makes me sound ancient…) school shootings were incredibly uncommon. The company behind “The Basketball Diaries” was actually sued in the aftermath of one shooting, I believe in Kentucky.

I remember, before Columbine and the other shootings, sitting in the corner of class with another student and we would joke about how this was the setting of that scene. For us, the violence in the scene wasn’t an inspiration to commit violence, it was cathartic. Perhaps it was so cathartic precisely because we weren’t the type who could ever do such a thing. We didn’t get into fights or play sports where we could work out a lot of anger. I was a writer and she was a visual artist. We did theater. We were determined to get through that class and get through high school and get out.

After Columbine and the other shootings I don’t think we could have joked like that. Columbine wasn’t someone acting this scene out. It was something far more twisted and disturbing. They weren’t exacting revenge they were just shooting off bullets trying to hit as many people as possible because they hated everyone and everything, no one more so than themselves. The media may have tried to romanticize them, but they were spree killers who didn’t care about anything.

For us, that scene was the equivalent of a comedian who says what we all think but no one has the guts to say and we laugh both because of it’s truth but also because we feel a certain catharsis in knowing that we’re not alone in having these thoughts and these opinions and in that moment, we feel a less alone.

That’s the power of art.

Jim Carroll, 1950-2009

September 16, 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.