Jim Carroll RIP: A personal tribute to a magnificent writer, poet and punk rocker

Jim Carroll 01/08/1949 - 11/09/2009

I’m afraid that this week you are going to have to bear with me.

This part of my ramblings is wholly personal - written for my own personal gratification and, no disrespect, I'm not worried if a) you have no idea who I’m writing about, or b) know who I’m writing about, but couldn’t really care less.

I do care, I’m in control of the keyboard and luckily we live in a (semi) democracy so you are free to scroll down. That’ll be your loss.

“At 13 years of age, Jim Carroll writes better prose than 89 per cent of the novelists working today.”  -  Jack Kerouac

If Jack ‘On The Road’ Kerouac describes a writer in such glowing terms, then a light should immediately flicker in your brain.

Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred pounds.

Proceed to the nearest bookstore and seek out that writer’s work.

I “found” Jim Carroll at an early age.

I’d escaped the confines of my sheltered life in Northamptonshire and was spending a few weeks in the bright lights/big city of London.

OK, OK, I wasn’t quite free of the shackles. My nan was chaperoning me on my annual summer holiday visit.

The sights had been seen, McDonalds on Haymarket had been plundered and our last stop was a bookshop on.……Charing Cross, I think.

It may have been Foyle’s - it may not!

I just remember they had a great section on the ‘beat generation'

I showed my nan the book, ‘The Basketball Diaries', by Jim Carroll.

She knew I was sports mad and was glad I’d found a suitable piece of literature.

I was glad she didn’t turn the cover over, “you just got to see that junk is another nine-to-five gig in the end, only the hours are a bit more inclined to the shadows…” to find a staple quote from the book!!

I was hooked. Ahem!

‘The Basketball Diaries’ is Carroll’s autobiographical tale of life as a sports star at Trinity, an elite private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan during the mid-60s.

We join him playing basketball, hustling, stealing, getting high and getting hooked. Searching for something pure.

The son of a bar owner, Carroll attended the school on a basketball scholarship.

And this is the contradiction that pulsed through the vein of Carroll’s life.

Supremely talented, but extremely destructive. His life was shaped by drug use.

It’s not until ‘Forced Entries', his second book of diary entries, in the mid-70s, that we see Carroll seek cleanliness and sanity on the west coast.

He survived.

Jim Carroll went on to become a much lauded poet and punk-rock performer.

A multi-talented visionary who captured the major periods of his life vividly and eloquently.

He died from a heart attack at his home in Manhattan, while sitting at his desk writing.

He was 60 years old.

Jim Carroll R.I.P

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williamhill.com

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