Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This past week poet and author Jim Carroll died of a heart attack in New York City. For most people Carroll became known after the 1995 movie The Basketball Diaries which was not a great movie nor a great representation of his book. Carroll was considered by many to be a "punk poet" who ventured into the world of music in 1980 with the album Catholic Boy. The album gave the band their one hit titled "People Who Died".

I guess people automatically think that if you're pissed off or lived in NYC or love punk rock that you're a disciple of Carroll's work. I've been asked a lot to write some words about my feelings on his death and to be honest I'm kind of at a loss. I respected Carroll as I respect anybody who is obviously a critical thinker and their own person but I had no great love for his works. The Basketball Diaries was an enjoyable read but it didn't change my life or get me to sign up as a fan. I've read Forced Entries which I enjoyed more than The Basketball Diaries as well as most of his poems. Obviously the man could write but I just never got why people fell all over themselves for Carroll.

I think part of it is the allure of the New York City scene which for those of us who didn't grow up in it can become as mystical and mythical as Oz. Alcohol soaked drug stories don't impress me, I've had too many friends dealing with drug problems for me to let myself get romantic about it. I also found Carroll's diatribe about Kurt Cobain self-serving and awfully condescending.

Musically I just didn't get the hoopla at all. It was decent enough bar music but that was about it. I find people tend to allow for more when somebody perceived as anti-establishment does something. In other words if people saw The Jim Carroll Band and Carroll had been some guy from downtown I don't think the love would have been quite as enormous for it.

So am I sad that Carroll has passed away, yes because as we lose poets and free thinkers they're replaced by Mall Culture and a generation in love with being part of the machine. Do I find Carroll to be up there with some of the great writers he's set alongside? No, not at all. I'm sure people will call me a "hater" or jealous because these days anybody with an opinion that differs from the masses is called one of those things.

I will say this, I wish it had been Kanye West dead and not Carroll.

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