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Review of Void of Course

Jim Carroll. Penguin, $12.95 paper (l28p) ISBN 0-14-058909-0

An alternately self-exposing and swaggering Bukowskian diarist, Carroll reinforces his rock-star-like pop culture niche with his latest volume of poetry, which somewhat resembles a compilation of power ballads. Given that Carroll's fame was established by the beloved 1970's memoir of drug addiction The Basketball Diaries, it makes sense that his poetry works to further the author's forever young and ostensibly hip public image, as in this ode to the late Kurt Cobain: "You should have talked more with the monkey! He's always waiting to negotiate! I'm still paying him off...But Kurt...! Didn't the thought you'd never write! another song! Another feverish line or riff! Make you think twice?" Carroll runs through a whole gamut of classic rock-star stances in this volume, from the maudlin lover of beauty and love ("You squeeze out the life and poison.! Tightly your pale thin thighs your thick hare lips! last night, our mouths meeting,! it was all we ever wanted to know about the truth") to the dancefloor ("all the young boys were gyrating") to the cocksure hombre who can face down even death. While he references writers Frank O'Hara, Jean Genet and Rimbaud throughout. it may be Carroll's own precarious presence on the scene that gives star power to his pathos, no less winning for its slack charm: "It could be a smudge from the inky thumb! Of a slack X-ray technician! It could be the radiant image! of a tumor on my lung... Monday, I'll learn.! I think I should stick around, you know?" (Oct.)


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