Jim Carroll RIP

The Core Belief

The big literary event for NYU freshmen in 1987 was the publication of Forced Entries, the long awaited sequel to Jim Carroll’s seminal The Basketball Diaries. My pal Howie and I ran out, each bought a copy, read it that night and were disappointed.

The teenage kid who was coming of age as a literary junkie on the streets of New York was replaced by a hard core heroin addict looking to reclaim his life. The Basketball Diareies was our On The Road and it’s sequel seemed so New Agey.  We preferred the hard boiled action to redemption. I guess I  was looking forward to watching Carroll swim in more sleaze.

Those two books, along with a couple of verses of poetry and the LP Catholic Boy, form the body of Carroll’s work. His career will be considered a disapointment by some, a triumph of the will over addiction by others. However, it was a career he choose. I always wanted to meet the guy.

My pal Jim Kelly, a fellow native of Washington Heights, went to hear Carroll read in 1992. He told me he would arrange an introduction. “My brother knew him,” he told me. “I’ll get his attention for you.”

We were drunk, stoned and rowdy. The only way to see an authnetic voice of the New York streets read his poetry at St. Mark’s Church on the Bowery. Kelly kept screaming “Sing for us Rabbit, sing for us Rabbit!” (Rabbit was the nickname some other hustlers gave Jim Carroll back in early 1960’s.)

Carroll was amused at first and finally threatened to come out into the audience and kick the shit out of Jim Kelly. Kelly and I laughed but Jim Carroll was serious. We calmed down and he finised his section of the show. I’m not sure but I think we were applauded as we walked out of the church. No one likes an out of control drunk in a bar, let alone a poetry reading.

I never met Jim Carroll. He died of a heart attack at the age of 60 on September 11, 2009.

…I salute you brother…






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