Jim Carroll (1949-2009)

Jim Carroll passed away on September 11th, 2009. Around that time a friend shared this video on Facebook. Jim is clearly weak, and it takes a few minutes for him to warm up. I think the video is worth the watch.

Jim Carroll is fascinating. Reminds me of a city version of Everett Ruess. I learned of Jim through reading his Basketball Diaries, which Norton re-published when I was working there. There is a good film – starring Leonardo DiCaprio – of the diaries that I’ve seen since. The biographical information below was taken from CatholicBoy.com:

Descended from three generations of Irish Catholic bartenders, Carroll was born in New York City in 1950. He spent his childhood living on the city’s Lower East Side, attending Catholic schools, and at age 12, shortly before his family moved to Upper Manhattan, he began keeping the journal that would eventually be published as The Basketball Diaries (1978). In this diary he recorded the ins and outs of his remarkable adolescence. A star basketball player and excellent student, he won a scholarship to Trinity, an elite private school on Manhattan’s posh upper West side.

While leading the Trinity Tigers to victory as an “All Ivy” player, Jim led a double life. He had first experimented with heroin at age 13, unfortunately thinking marijuana was the addictive stuff; he was soon a junkie, supporting his habit by hustling gay men.

By age 15, he was still hooked, but he was also writing poems and attending poetry workshops at St. Mark’s Poetry Project. His diaries immediately attracted the attention of the literary crowd around him. When he published Organic Trains, his first collection of poetry, at age 16, and excerpts from The Basketball Diaries were printed in Paris Review, he was firmly established as a genuine prodigy and a literary talent to be reckoned with.”

mainThe image in this post is of Carroll at Andy Warhol’s Factory overlooking Union Square in 1970 (by Gerard Malanga.) I took the image from a gallery at CatholicBoy.com, where they have a lot of his work, reviews, and music clips. They also have this poem, titled “Poem”, on the homepage.

There will always be a poem
I will climb on top of it and come
In and out of time,
Cocking my head to the side slightly,
As I finish shaking, melting then
Into its body, its soft skin
–Jim Carroll

For some reason his life, his art, makes me think: there are millions of ways to be different, and just as many ways to be the same. RIP.

Author: Robert Bettmann

Founder of Day Eight, and the DC Arts Writing Fellowship.