A Sickness That Takes Years to Perfect:
Jim Carroll's Alchemical Vision
pollution is a result of the inability of man to transform waste. the
transformation of waste is perhaps the oldest preoccupation of man. gold, being the chosen
alloy, must be resurrected--via shit, at all cost. inherent within us is the dream and
task of the alchemist.to create from clay a man. and to recapture from the excretions of
man pure and soft then solid gold.
--Patti Smith, "The Salvation of Rock," Babel (140)
Jim Carroll was 12 years old when he realized that he was immersed in a
world rife with corruption, where respectability was synonymous with hypocrisy, where
proper appearances merely concealed depravity, where authority figures used their power to
oppress others, and where it seemed someone was always trying "to steal the light
from [his] eyes" ("City Drops"). It was 1962, and a war was raging in
Vietnam. On the home front, racism ran rampant, and air raid sirens wailed as Khrushchev
warned, "We will bury you" and "Your children will live under
Communism" (Morris 19). Carroll, a street punk and star basketball player from the
lower east side of Manhattan, sought some way to rise above the desolation and insanity of
his circumstances to find out what was inside himself and achieve his full potential.
Being a basketball star couldn't save him: he had to find a new way to transcend the
emptiness and hypocrisy of his world by virtue of his own integrity, talent, and vision.
So, in the midst of chaos, at the age of 12, he began to write.
Carroll's diaries, poems, and rock lyrics over the past 33 years reflect
his ongoing struggle to transform the raw materials of his life into a pure reality, and
his drug use/addiction, "the sickness [he] took years to perfect,"1 has played a significant role in this
process. As a teenager, Carroll needed to find a reality that didn't lie to him--that came
to him directly, without mediation or circumvention--and in Winter 1964, just before he
entered Trinity High School, he tried heroin for the first time. He writes in The
I was just gonna sniff a bag but Tony said I might as well skin pop it. I
said OK. Then Pudgy says, 'Well, if you're gonna put a needle in, you might as well
mainline it." I was scared to main, but I gave in, Pudgy hit it in for me. I did half
a fiver and, shit, what a rush . . . just one long heat wave all through my body, any ache
I had flushed out. You can never top that first rush, it's like ten orgasms. . . . So, as
simple as a walk into that cellar, I lost my virgin veins. (30)
While Carroll rationalizes this extreme act as a result of peer pressure,
the fact is that he sacrificed his innocence, his "virgin veins," for what he
considered the pure, intense reality of heroin. His first shot of heroin was no symbolic
gesture: he effectively broke loose from the hypocritical world which always threatened to
crush him and leapt headlong into the underground. His descent into the drug culture was
somewhat haphazard, embarked upon without much foresight, but this act eclipsed every
"super layup" he ever made on the basketball court. Through drugs and his
participation in underground culture, Carroll felt he had discovered the honest, direct
reality he had been seeking but which "respectable" society denied him.
Ironically, Carroll entered the underground at just the moment when
possibilities began to open up for him in "respectable" society. Carroll's
basketball coach had helped him earn an athletic/academic scholarship to Trinity, an elite
Catholic high school. There, Carroll was a star basketball player (he played in the
National High School All Star Basketball Game in Washington, D.C., in 1966 [BD 153-55]),
but his equal passions for self-examination, new experiences, drugs, and writing were
beginning to overtake his love of athletics. Carroll told Ted Berrigan that:
By the time I got to Trinity the straight Jock trip had begun to wear a
little thin . . . I still had as much charge, but I simply began getting off into new
directions, like pills, sex, drugs, booze, and the New American Poetry. I had been keeping
my basketball diaries since I was 12, and so when I got turned on to poetry at Trinity,
writing it just came naturally. I read Howl first, I guess. Then Frank [O'Hara]. (9)
For Carroll, sex, drugs, and poetry were intimately related; hence, at the
same time his dabbling in drugs exploded into full-blown heroin addiction, forcing him to
hustle gay men to support his habit, Carroll's passion for poetry blossomed. As John
Milward notes, ". . .Ginsberg and e.e. cummings taught [Carroll] that poetry was not
a hermetic academic pursuit," and, "Initially he saw [heroin], as a means to a
literary end" (142). Carroll explained, "Junk made me alert. . . . for me the
nods were magic--when the cigarette butt would burn your fingers, you'd jump back in total
surprise that you weren't actually on that beach with the sun kissing the horizon. But the
nods weren't like dreaming--there was no surrealism. Just an intensified reality"
One effect of Carroll's descent into the underground and his
experimentation with drugs was a new way of seeing his world, and he applied this new
vision to his diaries and early poems. His vision, he knew, was based on the solidity, the
integrity, of his underground existence and of the concrete world around him, and writing
gave him absolute freedom to transform that world. He describes this freedom in one of the
most powerful passages of The Basketball Diaries:
I think about poetry and how I see it as a raw block of stone ready to be
shaped, that way words are never a horrible limit to me, just tools to shape. I just get
the images from the upstairs vault (it all comes in images) and fling 'em around like
bricks, sometimes clean and smooth and then sloppy and ready to fall on top of you later.
Like this house where I got to sometimes tear out a room and make it another size or shape
so the rest makes sense . . . or no sense at all. And when I'm done I'm stoned as on
whatever you got in your pockets right now, dig? (159)
Through writing he takes possession of his reality and transforms it. If
his world is chaotic and ugly, he can forge coherence and beauty in his diaries and poems;
if his reality is unalterable, he can create and fulfill infinite possibilities with his
One interesting example of the way Carroll transforms concrete reality and
expands its possibilities can be seen in some early poems which draw imagery from the
preliminaries to the "Winkie and Blinkie" passage of The Basketball Diaries.
In the diary, Carroll is on a bus to Long Beach, Long Island, having just swallowed two
bottles of codeine cough syrup: "I was trying to cop a short nod again on the bus
ride but this crazy old lady keeps giving me shit about being a commie because I got a red
tee-shirt on. . . . she goes on insisting that she has this vision that I'm gonna die
within a month because a giant clock was gonna fall on my head" (58). In some of his
earliest poems he offers three different perspectives on this experience, first in
"2nd Train (for Frank O'Hara)," from Organic Trains:2
Today at the Long Beach Station
everything was amazingly white
and sand was stuck in my tennis sneakers
that seems to be the way things
are going lately I was forewarned
about clocks falling on me
so all I felt was 8 colors as my
wrist watch flew into the sky's cheek.
watches are very symbolic of security
they remind me of Frank O'Hara. Frank
O'Hara reminds me of many wonderful
things, as does the vanilla light
which is dripping from his January eyes.
Then again in another Organic Trains poem, "3rd Train (for THE
A woman comes up to me
and questions the aesthetic
value of a red tee shirt
this was the same woman
who yesterday warned
me about clocks
I'm convinced she was a communist. (9)
And finally, an uncollected poem, "Red Rabbit Running Backwards (for
A. W.)," offers yet another variation on the same scenario:
. . . The aesthetic value of a red tee shirt
you making me see that could be what I mean
if it were not for the fact that the hurricane has bent the trees
and I can't see anything, in fact can only feel. can only feel
the 8 colors inside which somehow seem to indicate that
all the clocks are falling on and around me from the sky.
The Communists know what I mean. . . .
In each poem, concrete "facts" from his experience metamorphose
into something entirely new. In fact, Carroll's poetry is almost self-generating, with one
poem or diary taking off from another to create ever more expanding worlds of almost
infinite possibility. "Red Rabbit Running Backwards," for example, takes off
from the first line of "11th Train" and recycles lines from nearly every poem in
The ties between drugs and Carroll's expanding artistic vision especially
begin to emerge in his diary descriptions of his "nods," or drug-induced
experiences, some of the most poetic passages in the Diaries. Describing an L.S.D. trip,
At dawn light came in shafts and led me to some fields nearby to watch the
tall reeds wave and then become fingers calling me over. I rolled in the dew drenched
things as though they were lifting me across and through them with the fingers and my body
did no work at all, in fact, I forgot all about any body I had and left it behind finally,
thinking I was just a spirit flashing incredibly fast all through, wiping up the dew
Another tab of L.S.D. leaves him "listening to some sparks fly out of
an unknown album of jazz . . . literal sparks, all around as that music ran" (133).
Later, he finds in his pants pocket a poem "I wrote on an experience with L.S.D. a
"Little kids shoot marbles
where the branches break the sun
into graceful shafts of light
I just want to be pure" (140).
Carroll's drug experiences not only inspire his poems and diaries, he also
wants his poems and diaries to duplicate and produce the same effects as his nods. In one
diary, after drinking codeine cough syrup, he writes: "I was so zonked that I'd let
whole cigarettes burn down to the filter and burn my fingers without taking one drag. We
had about six hours more of good solid nods and then sat around and rapped slowly about
all our little visual dreams that passed in our heads clear as movies" (82-83).
Significantly, in 1974, Carroll duplicated this imagery in his poetic statement for
Rolling Stone: "I find that my poems have all turned into sheer verbal movie, image
over image into kind of dream machines in every form, so that the reader depends a lot on
the intensity of the final rush. The more capable one is of just plain nodding off and
feeling from each line . . . the better" (Margolis 42).
These passages give some notion of where the title of his third book of
poems, Living at the Movies (1973),3
comes from: Carroll attempts to create poems which produce the same "rush" as
drugs, which to him is like the fleeting, though concrete, images of a film. For him,
writing should be as intense as a heroin rush: the reader and writer alike should
experience poetry much as a drug user feels a high--as a physical, mental, and spiritual
rush. Perhaps most importantly within the context of the Diaries, this implies that drug
use for Carroll is not an escape into oblivion, but (at least initially) an active,
disciplined process. Carroll explained to Milward, "I wanted to see what oblivion was
like without staying in that pit. I wanted to see everything that was in me, and junk
slowed things down so I could take it all in. . . . it was like sliding into a tunnel of
my own design" (170). At the same time, Carroll's drug use and poetry allow him to
create a reality different from the ugliness and brutality of his everyday life. Carroll
told Danny O'Bryan and Mark Reese that "in poetry I wanted to be taken out of my
quotidian life. . . . . spirituality comes from trying to get out of myself so I could go
into myself from a different direction" (Poem, Interview, Photographs ).
The "quotidian life" Carroll transforms in his poetry is often
that of The Basketball Diaries, which is itself a transformation of Carroll's
reality. Had he never written a word, Carroll might have been just another New York street
punk grown up (or dead), a star basketball player gone to waste, a heroin addict, a
hustler; he might have been numbered among the excrement of human society, polluted and
unable to resurrect the debris of his life. But The Basketball Diaries performs an amazing
feat of alchemy, transforming the waste of Carroll's adolescence into a victory. In the
tradition of Coleridge, Rimbaud, Genet, and William Burroughs, Carroll is not being
decadent for the sake of decadence, nor is he attempting to self-destruct. Carroll uses
his "nods," as well as his own corruption, to broaden his vision and see new
things, about which he can write afterward. As with his poetry, writing diaries enables
Carroll to impose order upon the chaos of his life, transform its ugliness into beauty,
and explore infinite possibilities, but it is also a weapon. In the Diaries, Carroll's
drug use/abuse and marginal/decadent status are the ammunition he uses to assault the
corrupt social order which made his life chaotic and ugly in the first place.
In one sense, like Burroughs, Carroll serves up a "naked lunch,"
displaying the depravity and hypocrisy inherent in a so-called "respectable"
society unwilling to face itself. The "establishment" points an accusing finger
at "them commies," "longhairs," "niggers" and
"spics," "junkies," and "perverts," refusing to acknowledge
its own corruption. But with New York City as "the greatest hero a writer
needs," Carroll lays bare "what's really going down out there in the pretty
streets with double garages" (BD 160). What's "really going down" is that
the Communist threat is "some dream dreamed up to take the rap for you" (127);
that the "'fine' Christian Brothers" of the Catholic Church are getting their
kicks "running around with their rubber straps beating asses red for the least little
goofing" (18), and "deriving some pleasure out of these dutiful tasks thrust
upon [them]" (35). While narcotics forces claim to be out saving the nation,
dauntlessly battling the drug epidemic, they're "rapping right out loud to each other
how much they ought to give in for evidence and what they ought to keep to sell for
themselves back onto the street" (128). In disclosing this reality, he attempts to
"get even for your dumb hatreds and all them war baby dreams you left in my scarred
bed with dreams of bombs falling above that cliff I'm hanging steady onto" (160).
More importantly, though "there is nothing so calculated about Jim
Carroll's excursion into the inferno," as Jamie James notes, in a way Carroll follows
a program similar to Arthur Rimbaud's, cultivating "the sickness [he] took years to
perfect." Carroll becomes all of the evil things society fears. He grows his hair
long, becomes a "minority" within minority culture, steals, attends Communist
Party meetings and protest marches, gets hooked on heroin, and hustles gay men to support
his habit. Rimbaud believed that becoming a visionary requires one "to attain the
unknown by disorganizing all the senses," and to become as depraved as possible
(100). "[T]he problem is to make the soul into a monster," Rimbaud writes;
"Think of a man grafting warts onto his face and growing them there" (102). In The
Basketball Diaries, Carroll is making himself into a visionary; he is Rimbaud's
"great criminal" (102) against the so-called traditional values of society
because he dares to swallow all the poisons his world has to offer, transforming what is
useful to him, and spitting the rest out. Rather than passively allowing himself to become
polluted, he seeks out corruption, then filters it through actions and words. His vision
of his world is entirely his own, and he paints a portrait of this world in his own
language--in slang and street rap. Through his actions, clarity of vision, and street
lingo, he uncovers the emptiness of his world's values, challenges them, and forges his
own, new values through a relentless exploration of himself.
Because he can see clearly, and because he is able to write about his
experience, he inverts the established reality of heroes and villains, exposing the
hypocrisy inherent in a "respectable" world unwilling to face itself. As he puts
Some lady professor . . . asked at one point if we weren't scared of the
drug scene, then weren't we at least feeling guilty about using junk. I think now and that
pisses me off. Like what is guilty or who is guilty for fuck sake? Big business dudes make
billions come out of their ass and they ain't shelling out a reefer's worth of tax. Kids
walk through some jungle I don't know how far away and shoot people, and white haired old
men in smoking jacket armchairs make laws to keep it all going smoothly. I swim in the
river and have to duck huge amounts of shit and grease and "newly discovered miracle
fibers" every five feet I move because those smokestack companies don't give a flying
fuck . . . Shit my man, it's so all there that no one's seeing it anymore. (199)
Carroll says, "The real junkie should be raised up for saying fuck
you to all this shit city jive, for going on with all the risks and hassles and con,
willing to face the rap" (189), and he descends into the abyss, into the darkest
depths of heroin abuse, prostitution, and theft; into the bowels of a corrupt society. But
because he is in possession of his own vision, he transcends the hypocrisy of
"respectable" society; he is able to purge himself of this corruption and remain
pure. As he told Lynn Hirschberg in 1979,
Purity means that you always have something up your sleeve, that you have
something you've earned, that you have something to move toward, that your vision is
intact. Purity, to me, exists within states of what would be thought of as impure. You can
live within a state of total decay. You can live in that state and still be totally pure
if your vision remains intact, if you know that you've got to keep moving ahead because
you haven't reached that light yet, the light at the end of the tunnel. (27)
In The Basketball Diaries, within a "state of total
decay," Carroll seeks to purify himself through the integrity of his own vision. His
awareness of the corruption surrounding him on all sides heightens his urgent sense that
there must be a "light at the end of the tunnel," and it is up to him alone to
Carroll said in an interview with Barbara Graustark, "Susan Sontag
once told me that a junkie has a unique chance to rise up and start over" (81), and
the ending of The Basketball Diaries offers that possibility. The final entry finds
Carroll at the bottom of the pit, in the darkest depths of excess, stoned for four days
straight. As he emerges from his drug-induced stupor, he looks around, realizing for
perhaps the first time the depths he has reached. While he has physically lost all control
and dignity, and while his environment is filthy and disgusting, his writing prevails. He
details what he sees so poetically, and with such striking precision, that the scene
becomes almost beautiful:
In ten minutes it will make four days that I've been nodding on this ratty
mattress up here in Headquarters. Haven't eaten except for three carrots and two Nestle's
fruit and nut bars and both my forearms sore as shit with all the little specks of caked
blood covering them. My two sets of gimmicks right along side me in the slightly bloody
water in the plastic cup on the crusty linoleum, probably used by every case of hepatitis
in upper Manhattan by now. Totally zonked, and all the dope scraped or sniffed clean from
the tiny cellophane bags. Four days of temporary death gone by, no more bread, with its
hundreds of casual theories, soaky nostalgia (I could have got that for free walking along
Fifth Avenue at noon), at any rate, a thousand goofs, some still hazy in my noodle. (209)
As his clarity of vision returns, Carroll needs to purge himself of the
poison and make a resurrection; he thinks
about my conversation with Brian: "Ever notice how a junkie nodding
begins to look like a foetus after a while?" "That's what it's all about, man,
back to the womb." . . . A wasted peek into the mirror, I'm all thin as a wafer of
concentrated rye. I wish I had some now with a little Cheez-Whiz on it. I can feel the
window light hurting my eyes; it's like shooting pickle juice. . . . Nice June day out
today, lots of people probably graduating. I can see the Cloisters with its million in
medieval art out the bedroom window. I got to go in and puke. I just want to be pure . . .
It's an optimistic conclusion--but, unfortunately, Carroll remained
addicted to heroin until well into his twenties, as is documented in Forced Entries:
The Downtown Diaries, 1971-1973 (which actually covers a period more like 1968-74).
Eventually, Carroll realized that he had become a cartoon version of the "drugged out
poet," and he had made a mockery of his own poetic vision. In Forced Entries, he
I'm sick of writing about dope, about drugs in every form. I'm sick of
recording the ups and downs of indulgence, and sick of releasing dispatches of misery via
abstinence. I thought I could deal with, perhaps even come to understand, my obsessions
through some strained eloquence. I thought I could eventually pierce every veil through
chance metaphor, but how many flowers can serve as metaphors for that initial mingling of
blood and water encased in the barrel of a syringe? (120- 21)
He knows, "It can't go on. My body is broke. I'm shitting where I
eat" (114). In Forced Entries, Carroll records his discovery that his addiction was
destroying his only source of purity: his writing. As he puts it, "I can't attempt to
write always in the hollow flux of desperation and incipient terror" (114), and,
"The fact is that instead of freeing myself through language, the language itself has
become a hostage, and the room where we are held becomes smaller every day. . . . Only
without boundaries can the words transform into something beyond themselves" (121).
Finally, around 1974, he fled to Bolinas, California, and successfully conquered his
addiction through a methadone treatment program.
Even after his recovery, though, Carroll has continued to seek a pure
reality; specifically, his ongoing project has been the retroactive transformation of his
past and of the addicted self he cultivated for so much of his life. In the 1980s, this
transformation took form in Carroll's entry into rock music. In light of his recovery from
heroin addiction, the first Jim Carroll Band album, Catholic Boy (1980),
reinterprets The Basketball Diaries as a journey through hell which led to
redemption. "I was a Catholic boy, redeemed through pain, not through joy,"
Carroll sings in the title song, and "City Drops Into the Night" describes the
process of this redemption. In Carroll's experience, it is at moments of absolute
decadence, "When the body at the bottom / That body is my own reflection," when
salvation is realizable. At that moment, endless possibilities open up: "Before the
darkness there's one moment of light," when everything can change. The characters in
the song find themselves at turning points, when their situations can change radically,
for better or worse:
It's when ambitious little girls start to dream about a change in style
It's when the slick boys got their fingers in the telephone dial
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
It's when the sneak thieves are checkin' the alleys for unlocked doors
And Billy's sister's gettin' frantic 'cause Billy's sister's little brother can't score
For Carroll, one "moment of light" came and went in the final
entry of The Basketball Diaries, as he wallowed in the deepest depths of heroin
abuse and wrote, "I just want to be pure." During the period of Forced
Entries, another opportunity opened up when Carroll hit bottom and decided to leave
The ending of "City Drops Into the Night" also reveals the
specific nature of Carroll's salvation. First, he had to realize the prison he had built
for himself in the endless cycle of obsession and heroin abuse:
They're always gonna come to your door
They're gonna say it's just a routine inspection
But what do you get when you open your door?
What you get is just another injection
And there's always gonna be one more
With just a little bit less until the next one
The "dealer" (of drugs, fame, whatever) is always willing to
oblige a habit and, in doing so, they and the drug become rulers of the addict's fate. But
the sense Carroll conveys is that the cravings and corrupting/controlling forces will
continue to impinge upon the addict so long as s/he perpetuates the addiction. Eventually,
as the addict descends further into the abyss and gives him/herself over to her/his
obsessions, the addiction and corrupting forces siphon away any vestige of hope the addict
might have. As callous as a mugger hiding in a darkened alley and robbing a passer-by of
her life savings, these corrupting forces "wait in shadows and steal the light from
your eyes / To them, vision's just some costly infection." And once the addict has
been robbed of all hope and of the artistic vision which will offer salvation, the
"moment of light" passes, leaving the addict with nothing but darkness, despair,
and corruption. But Carroll seized upon the moment of light in time and he was redeemed.
Hence, as he concludes the song, he transforms the drug metaphor as he becomes the
"dealer" who, rather than doling out corruption, deals revelation and hope:
You should come with me
I'm the fire, I'm the fire's reflection
I'm just a constant warning
To take the other direction
Mister, I am your connection.
Like Rimbaud's poet, Carroll becomes "truly the thief of fire"
(103), transforming himself into a modern-day Prometheus, shedding light on the
underground experience, the trap of addiction, and the natures of fame and art. He shows
that it is possible to make it all new--to enlarge and grasp that moment of light. He
becomes "the fire's reflection," the reflection of both the ugliness and the
beauty of addiction and underground experience.
Carroll's point is that no matter how deeply an individual descends into
the abyss, redemption is still possible through a finely-tuned artistic vision, and he has
continued to stand by this belief. Recently he published "8 Fragments for Kurt
Cobain" (1994), in which he identifies with the anguish which led Cobain to suicide,
alluding to a number of his own autobiographical works.4 In the first fragment, referring to his own experience with the hazards
of genius ("Which starts as a kiss / and ends like a curse" ["Nothing Is
True"]), the connections between his vision and drugs, and the difficulties he faced
in breaking free from addiction, he observes,
Genius is not a generous thing
In return it charges more interest than any amount
of royalties can cover / And it resents fame
With bitter vengeance
Pills and powders only placate it awhile
Then it puts you in a place where the planet's
Where the currents of electricity shift
Your body becomes a magnet and pulls to it despair
and rotten teeth,
Cheese whiz and guns.
But he asks Cobain in the seventh fragment:
But Kurt . . .
Didn't the thought that you would never write
Another feverish line or riff
Make you think twice?
That's what I don't understand
Because it's kept me alive, above any wounds.
Perhaps drugs were Carroll's inspiration, their effects his ideal model
for poetry--but it was his writing itself, his need to write and create a pure reality,
that saved his life and has kept him going for forty-five years. He writes in Forced
Entries, "I think of my past as if it were some exquisite antique knife . . . you can
use it to defend yourself or slit your own throat, but you can't just keep it mounted on
some wall" (2). Carroll has yet to leave his past frozen, "mounted on some
wall" for perpetuity. He is in a constant process of "Doing now what is / Needed
for what / I am becoming" ("Coda"): not only has he written two
autobiographies (Forced Entries was published in 1987), he also reworks his life in
other forms, poetry and rock music, within which he continually experiments with new ways
to relate his experience. Hence, with each work, he perpetually revises his autobiography
so that it is always new, always alive, and never quite finished. While Carroll's sickness
took years to perfect, transforming it into something beyond itself is a project to last a
1 Carroll refers to his heroin addiction as
"the sickness I took years to perfect" in his poem "Paregoric Babies"
(Living at the Movies 99; Fear of Dreaming 101), his second diary Forced
Entries (182), and in his song "Dance the Night Away" on I Write Your
2 Organic Trains is Carroll's first book of
poetry, a limited edition published in 1967 when he was 16 (Kuennen 84). According to his
1968 Trinity High School yearbook, Carroll was "The first of the class of '68 to be
published. . ." (qtd. in Musser 1). BACK
3 Carroll's second collection of poetry is 4 Ups
and 1 Down (1970), an eight-page, limited edition pamphlet containing five poems, all
of which are reprinted in Living at the Movies. BACK
4 Carroll's references in the poem to his own
published works are extensive. See "Coda" in Fear of Dreaming (273) for
financial accounting imagery similar to that in the first fragment. See also "Rock
'n' Roll" in Forced Entries (164-65), "Them" on Dry Dreams,
and "City Drops Into the Night" on Catholic Boy for Carroll's views on
the relationship between genius/vision and fame, to which he alludes in the first and
second fragments. For the magnet imagery in the first fragment, see "The Loft
Party" in Forced Entries, where Carroll writes, "I should split, but this
city is like a lodestone, and I'm a tin motherfucker" (107); and "this place is
a lodestone, and its reach is as long as all our doomed desires" (108). Also,
"Extractions" deals with the problem of a rotten tooth, which comes to represent
the pain of his past (FE 134-37). The final entry of The Basketball Diaries
contains the Cheez-Whiz reference (210); in an earlier entry, Carroll discusses the
growing importance of writing as his reason "to hang on a bit longer" (151). In
addition, Carroll's references to "guitar claws" and rock audiences in the
second fragment repeat imagery he uses in one of The Book of Nods's "New York
City Variations" and "Poem" (see Fear of Dreaming 191, 225). The
concluding lines of the eighth fragment, "Which starts out as a kiss / And follows
like a curse," are from his song, "Nothing is True," on Catholic Boy.
These are but a few of Carroll's intertextual allusions. BACK
Berrigan, Ted. "Jim Carroll." Culture Hero 1.5
Carroll, Jim. The Basketball Diaries. 1978. New York: Penguin,
1987. ---. Catholic Boy. Atco-Atlantic, SD 38-132, 1980.
---. "City Drops Into the Night." Catholic Boy.
Atco-Atlantic, SD 38-132, 1980. ---. "Coda." Fear of Dreaming 273.
---. "Dance the Night Away." I Write Your Name. Atlantic,
---. "Nothing Is True." Catholic Boy. Atco-Atlantic, SD
---. Poem, Interview, Photographs. Published in Heaven Chapbook 50.
Louisville, KY: White Fields, 1994.
---. "Them." Dry Dreams. Atco-Atlantic, SD 38-145, 1982.
---. "8 Fragments for Kurt Cobain." Poem, Interview,
Photographs. Published in Heaven Chapbook 50. Louisville, KY: White Fields, 1994. Rpt.
New York Times Magazine 1 Jan. 1995: 31.
---. Fear of Dreaming: The Selected Poems of Jim Carroll. New York:
---. Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries, 1971-1973. New York:
---. 4 Ups and 1 Down. New York: Angel Hair, 1970.
---. Living at the Movies. 1973. New York: Penguin, 1981.
---. Organic Trains. [New Jersey]: Penny Press, 1967.
---. "Red Rabbit Running Backwards (for A.W.)." Stone Wind
4 (1973?): 113.
Graustark, Barbara. "Mean Streets." Newsweek 8 Sep. 1980:
Hirschberg, Lynn. "Jim Carroll: The Vision Explodes." BAM
15 Aug. 1980: 24-27.
James, Jamie. Rev. of The Basketball Diaries. American Book Review
2.3 (1980): 9.
Kuennen, Cassie Carter. "Jim Carroll: An Annotated, Selective,
Primary and Secondary Bibliography, 1967-1988." Bulletin of Bibliography 47.2
Margolis, Susan. "100 American Seducers on Their Craft & Sullen
Art." Rolling Stone 16 Aug. 1973: 42-49.
Milward, John. "Catholic Boy." Penthouse Mar. 1981: 140+.
Morris, Charles R. A Time of Passion: America 1960-1980. New York:
Musser, James P. Skyline Books, Counterculture, Beat & Modern
Literature: Jim Carroll. Catalogue. Forrest Knolls, CA: Skyline Books, 1995.
Rimbaud, Arthur. Arthur Rimbaud: Complete Works. Trans. Paul
Schmidt. New York: Perrenial-Harper, 1976.
Smith, Patti. Babel. New York: Putnam's, 1978.