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Night and Day: Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll’s first book, the 1973 poetry collection Living at the Movies, earned the then-22-year-old a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Before the close of the ’70s, Carroll had published his most (in)famous work, The Basketball Diaries (the movie of which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll), and put together the Jim Carroll Band, whose “People Who Died” became a staple of early-’80s rock radio. But what has he done for us lately?

After releasing the 1991 spoken-word recording Praying Mantis, Carroll published several books, including Fear of Dreaming, a collection of new work and past nuggets; released A World Without Gravity, a greatest-hits CD featuring some unreleased and new tracks; and recorded songs for the soundtrack of The Basketball Diaries. He also collaborated on the movie’s screenplay. “I liked the screenplay on paper, but once they started shooting, the director was just involved in setting up MTV-type shots,” Carroll reflects. “He wasn’t interested in the literary aspect of it.” Despite that bad cinema experience, Carroll has written outlines for several movies, including one optioned by Atom Egoyan, the Academy Award-nominated director of The Sweet Hereafter.

In late 1998, Carroll returned to music with Pools of Mercury, an album that mixed literary pieces set to music with new, full-fledged rock songs. The album’s release coincided with the publication of Void of Course, a collection of poetry and short prose pieces. And until recently, Carroll was working on two novels simultaneously. (It took, in his words, a “literary intervention” from his agent and lawyer to get him to concentrate on just one novel.) Yet he says that his next published work probably will be a collection of short pieces, which he has written in bursts between novel-writing sessions. “I have a timetable, my agent has a timetable, and my lawyer has a timetable,” Carroll says, adding that his lawyer also is his ex-wife. “We’re still really very close friends, and she really busts my ass.”

On Saturday (Oct. 7), Carroll will give two spoken-word performances at the Van Dyck; similar appearances at such area venues as the now-defunct QE2 have had all the energy of rock & roll concerts. The writer-singer says that when considering material for these shows, “I usually pick it at the last minute.” During his rock years, he learned to read a crowd and decide on the spot whether a given piece might be too long, too heavy, or right on. “It’s like a quarterback calling an audible,” he explains.

In conversation, Carroll is somewhat awkward—which is surprising, considering the grace and economy of his stunningly visual writing. In a live setting, however, Carroll is an outstanding storyteller filled with outstanding stories. He is a younger personGarrison Keillor, but with fewer pretensions and fewer references to Lutherans. “My voice has a quiver,” he says. “A quiver is where you keep arrows until you shoot them.”

Jim Carroll will perform on Saturday (Oct. 7) at the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady). Showtimes are 7 and 9:30 PM, and tickets are $22. To reserve tickets or get more information, call 381-1111. Before his Van Dyck shows, Carroll will sign books at Barnes & Noble (20 Wolf Road, Colonie), at 4 PM. For information on the signing, call 459-8183.

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