Tuesday, September 15, 2009

RIP Jim Carroll

No download here. Plenty bloggers have posted his (classic and necessary) "Catholic Boy" LP. Just enter "Jim Carroll" in the CaptainCrawl box up there and there's tons of hits.
Anyway, I was saddened to here of one of my literary hero's passing on Friday. I remember getting The Basketball Diaries at a boardwalk bookshop in Ocean City, NJ as a teenager. I read it all on the beach that day, laughing my ass off (and boiling like a lobster). Over the years I must have read it ten times. And despite the fact that I've lent it out, eagerly, to anyone interested, I still have that yellowed, frayed copy.
Jim Carroll spoke to me like no one else I had read up to that point. Not that I was a jock or anything (nor was he, just an amazing natural talent). Teachers, older friends and various mentors had tried to get me to read On the Road, but to me it sounded as archaic as Shakespeare. Reading Carroll was as easy and natural as hanging out on a street corner bullshitting with friends. And he fed my fascination with New York City which had started as a wee lad with Simon & Garfunkel. In fact, years later when I moved there, I moved into Carroll's neighborhood: Washington Heights. When friends came to visit me I'd spread my arms wide and proclaim, "This is Jim Carroll's 'hood!". Ok, I lived several blocks to the south; he actually lived in Inwood. But I lived closer to Inwood than Washington Heights proper. But fuck, close enough. It's all that skinny finger on the top of Manhattan when you look at a map. We rode the same 'A' Train.
When I'd go swimming in the Hudson (yup), I'd always recall his tales of swimming on the other side in the Harlem River. Thankfully, the ejections of raw sewage that he would time his dives between were long gone by then.

When the movie came out I was gonna see it but never did. Still haven't. I remember talking with a friend about it back then and she said it was too depressing. I said, "what? It's not funny?". She looked at me like I was talking about something else entirely. So if you've never read it, I highly recommend it. Maybe it would be different for me if I just read it now rather than when I was a teenager, but I don't know. Good writing is good writing is good.
And that fucker could write.

Maybe I'll see if I can DL that movie somewhere...


yayablahblah said...

great post. i very saddened by his passing as well

Dance said...

subtle but touching, full respect for the guy, i once saw him in New york

stephen spera said...

I'd like to thank you for the kind words- Jim and I had a 'breakfast club' for more than 12 years, with incredible people stopping in from all over the word.
Recently, a few of us have been upset at most of the handling of his passing, even the NY Times hosed us-
a piece which came across like the National Enquirer.
So believe me when I tell you, with all thats gone on lately, your piece is truly welcome.
there are pics of Jim on www.stephenspera.com and on my facebook etc -Jim was working on a novel for the last 10+ years, and it IS finished, with some editing to be done. And thats all he cared about. good writing IS good writing. Its not even necessary that you post this- just wanted to say hi and thanks again.
all best
stephen spera

Centinel said...

For a different view, get the audiobook. I picked it up before I read the book (or saw the movie) and hearing Carroll's distinctive voice reading his own words with his inflection made it almost better than reading it myself.

If you do see the movie, look for Carroll's cameo.

Peter said...

Thanks for the tip, that's a great idea!
Never thought of it... P