Carroll, Jim

(1950– )
   By age 13, Jim Carroll was already experimenting with heroin and writing the journal that would become his acclaimed book, The BasketBall diaries. Gifted at both basketball and academics, Carroll won a scholarship to Trinity, an elite Manhattan private school, where he began to write the sports section for the school paper. There he led a double life, ditching classes, continuing his heroin use, hustling gay men, and snatching purses to support his addiction while his basketball star status slowly diminished.
   During this time Carroll kept writing, attending poetry readings and workshops at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, “which assembled such poets as anne waldman, allen ginsberg, and John Ashberry.” Finally, by 17, he published his first book of poetry, Organic Trains, and landed excerpts of The Basketball Diaries in the Paris Review. Catching the attention of poet Ted Berrigan, an 18-year-old Carroll was taken to meet jack kerouac who praised the poet saying, “At thirteen years of age, Jim Carroll writes better prose than 89 percent of the novelists working today.” Even William S. Burroughs called Carroll “a born writer.” No doubt these experiences gave confidence to the already driven young writer.
   After high school, Carroll opted out of college and instead worked for Andy Warhol, dated folkrocker Patti Smith, and ran in the same circles as Ginsberg, bob dylan, and the proto-punk band, The Velvet Underground. Despite continuing success as a writer, Carroll’s heroin addiction began to control his life and in 1973, he took off to Bolinas, California, to kick the habit for good. In his selfimposed exile, Carroll focused on his writing, even beginning to pen rock lyrics originally intended for other artists. He soon found himself onstage with Patti Smith, reading his poetry backed by her band. The crowd loved it, giving birth to Carroll’s rocker incarnation, about which he later quipped, “any poet, out of respect for his audience, should become a rock star.” The Jim Carroll Band garnered popular and critical acclaim with their first album, Catholic Boy. The song “People Who Died” was an instant hit, and BAM magazine named the album one of the most popular of 1980. In fact, after the death of john lennon, “People Who Died” became elegiac, requested nearly as much as Lennon’s own “Imagine.”
   Crossing the terrain between serious writer/ poet, local sports star, drug addict, and rock idol, Carroll has well established himself as a modern cult hero. He has published four books of poetry, Organic Trains, 4 Ups and 1 Down, Living at the Movies, and The Book of Nods; two diaries, The Basketball Diaries and Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries; three LPs with The Jim Carroll Band; as well as numerous uncollected works such as “8 Fragments for Kurt Cobain,” written after the singer’s suicide. In addition to these, information about Carroll’s spoken-word albums, films, collaborations with artists such as Pearl Jam, Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, and Blue Oyster Cult and just about everything concerning Jim Carroll can be found via his Web site, Catholicboy.com.
 Bibliography
■ Flippo, Chet. “A Star is Borning.” New York, 26 January 1981, 32–35.
■ Kuennen, Cassie Carter. “Jim Carroll: An Annotated, Selective, Primary and Secondary Bibliography, 1967–1988. Bulletin of Bibliography 47.2 (1990): 81–113.
■ ——— “The Sickness That Takes Years to Perfect: Jim Carroll’s Alchemical Vision.” Dionysos: Literature and Addiction 6, no. 1 (1996): 6–19.
   Jennifer Cooper

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

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