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He was a friend of mine
September 13, 2009 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Jim Carroll has died. Avant-garde writer, punk rocker, doped-up downtown scenester, never-made-it schoolyard hoop-dreamer. He couldn't have expected to live to see a master's thesis in English at San Diego State written about his journal/novel The Basketball Diaries, or to be interviewed by Jon Stewart about being played by Leo DiCaprio in the movie of his (early) life.

Jim Carroll interviewed in Cleveland in 1991, hiding behind a big hat, a big cup of coffee, and a big accent.

Obligatory (but follow it if you haven't heard it!) "People Who Died" link.

catholicboy.com, as thorough a collection of Carrolliana as you're going to find.
posted by escabeche (124 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by mkim at 5:44 PM on September 13, 2009


Redeemed through pain, not through joy. Bye, Jim.

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posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:46 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


t h e y . w e r e . a l l . m y . f r i e n d s
a n d . t h e y . d i e d
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posted by porn in the woods at 5:46 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by msali at 5:47 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by ursus_comiter at 5:48 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 5:48 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by puckupdate at 5:49 PM on September 13, 2009


Previously on metafilter: this old "People Who Died" thread was deleted for SLYT-iness but has some good comments, and lots of links to covers of Carroll's most famous song.
posted by escabeche at 5:50 PM on September 13, 2009


wow...strange... I had never heard of him until my kid worked on Dawn of the Dead... they used the "those are people that died" song at the end of the movie... irony sucks...
posted by HuronBob at 5:50 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Joe Beese at 5:50 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by brandz at 5:52 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by fixedgear at 5:53 PM on September 13, 2009


"These are people who died" song at the end of Dawn... On Hulu right now...
posted by HuronBob at 5:56 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by drezdn at 5:56 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by doctor_negative at 5:57 PM on September 13, 2009


oops dawn on hulu...
posted by HuronBob at 5:57 PM on September 13, 2009


The theme song of this entire year should be "People Who Died", so the dude who did it may as well have been one of them.

Sometimes I am less saddened by those we have lost than those we are left with.


for Jim:
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and if there isn't a common symbol for a heavy sigh, I offer this:
:::::
posted by wendell at 6:01 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I got a copy of the Basketball Diaries shortly after it was published. I was much younger then. I was just living in Manhattan for the first time. I had a roommate who was straight as an arrow. I was enthralled by the book and laughed, guffawed and generally displayed whatever emotion I was feeling when I was reading it. It opened my eyes to the world out there. I was a sheltered suburban kid who thought partying was drinking 6 beers, smoking 10 bong hits and wrestling with my friends. The book changed my NYC experience. I do not regret it one bit.

Thank you Jim Carroll. RIP.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:03 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by somnambulist at 6:05 PM on September 13, 2009


I was born in a pool, they made my mother stand
And I spat on that surgeon and his trembling hand
When I felt the light I was worse than bored
I stole the doctor's scalpel and I slit the cord

I was a Catholic boy
I was redeemed through pain
Not through joy

I was two months early, they put me under glass
I screamed and cursed at children when their nurses passed
I was convicted of theft as I slipped from the womb
They led me straight from my mother to a cell in the Tombs

I was a Catholic boy
I was redeemed through pain
Not through joy

They starved me for weeks, they thought they'd teach me fear
I fed on cellmates' dreams, it gave me fine ideas
When they cut me loose, the time had served me well
I made allies in heaven, I made comrades in hell

I was a Catholic child
The blood ran red
The blood ran wild



It's hard to express quite how huge an influence he had on my youth. The Basketball Diaries (book) is one of the great teenage works of art, in any medium.

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posted by fire&wings at 6:08 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


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posted by exlotuseater at 6:10 PM on September 13, 2009


Look on the bright side. It's no longer too late to fall in love with Sharon Tate.

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posted by fourcheesemac at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2009


"Catholic Boy" was an essential album for me in high school. Although none of his other records came close to exciting me the way that one did, he's always had a pull on me few other artists ever have had.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by badger_flammable at 6:18 PM on September 13, 2009



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posted by dancestoblue at 6:21 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:23 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by lacus at 6:24 PM on September 13, 2009


From one NY kid to another:
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posted by ltracey at 6:29 PM on September 13, 2009


Brilliant artist.

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posted by alteredcarbon at 6:30 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Don't_deceive_with_belief at 6:30 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Donnie VandenBos at 6:30 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Scoo at 6:41 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Captain_Science at 6:43 PM on September 13, 2009


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I salute you, brother.
posted by Elsa at 6:47 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


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The Downtown Diaries really opened me up to a world I didn't even know existed.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:49 PM on September 13, 2009


I salute you brother.
posted by shockingbluamp at 6:49 PM on September 13, 2009


Well, what a shitty end to a perfectly shitty day. Bye, Jim.
posted by infinitywaltz at 6:49 PM on September 13, 2009


He has always been one of my very most favorite musicians. He was intelligent and he had something to say. His poetry and other writings were also enlightening. This is a great, great loss. When he got into music he teamed himself with a great rock and roll ensemble. Kudos to Grimes and the Times for a beautiful obit. One of my favorite songs of his was "City Drops into the Night." For me it beautifully described his dark past and perhaps not so past. For Jim, here is the final verse:
It's when the body at the bottom,
That body is my own reflection
But it ain't hip to sink that low
Unless you're gonna make a resurrection
They're always gonna come to your door
They're gonna say, "It's just a routine inspection"
But what 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
They wait in shadows and steal the light from your eyes
To them vision's just some costly infection
But listen, 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
and also for you my Catholic friend:
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
You will be missed Lord Jim, may you rest in peace, and may you rock the heavens.
posted by caddis at 6:53 PM on September 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


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posted by ameliajayne at 7:00 PM on September 13, 2009


There's a poem by him that I think would be appropriate right now, but I can't find it online/can't find my copy. It's about how whenever he would see a rabbit ran over on the highway he'd think there were computers making miscalculations with our lives. IIRC.
posted by drezdn at 7:04 PM on September 13, 2009


I played college basketball in the late 70' early 80's and his book was passed around among us. Later I gave it to my father to read. When he finished he hurled the book at the wall yelling "God dammit God dammit."
posted by pianomover at 7:05 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


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posted by pianomover at 7:06 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Bron at 7:09 PM on September 13, 2009


Man, what a bummer. So long Jim.
posted by Richat at 7:11 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by chrchr at 7:11 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by desuetude at 7:12 PM on September 13, 2009


This is the worst thing about getting older. The people you feel an affinity with leave you.

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posted by Duke999R at 7:18 PM on September 13, 2009


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Is this what the downhill side looks like?
posted by DaddyNewt at 7:22 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by Tiresias at 7:25 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by inthe80s at 7:27 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by vibrotronica at 7:31 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by R. Mutt at 7:32 PM on September 13, 2009


I'm probably going to fuck this up 'cos it's from memory, and I probably haven't seen a copy of "Living at the Movies" for decades. But I had it in my head for so long, just the last four lines of I don't remember which poem, 'cos I loved it, and it seemed like it encapsulated so much of his deranged/redemptive project:

Little kids shoot marbles
where branches break the sun
into graceful shafts of light
I just want to be pure


...

I guess he is, now.

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posted by hap_hazard at 7:34 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:36 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by archaic at 7:38 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by gingerbeer at 7:46 PM on September 13, 2009


. There was so much great music coming out of New York around '79 and '80, I really see that as a golden age of music. (or maybe everyone thinks that the year they turned 16 was a golden age of music).
posted by octothorpe at 8:01 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Sailormom at 8:12 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by longsleeves at 8:20 PM on September 13, 2009


People Who Died changed my life.

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posted by Cosmo7 at 8:26 PM on September 13, 2009


Sampling Nietzsche.

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posted by homunculus at 8:28 PM on September 13, 2009


Jim Carroll - I am alone
posted by homunculus at 8:30 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by robcorr at 8:30 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by susanbeeswax at 8:33 PM on September 13, 2009


I am ashamed to admit that I didn't know The Basketball Diaries was anything other than a Leo DiCaprio film, and, having never seen it, always assumed it was a fictional Hoop Dreams for white boys.

I think I've got some reading to do.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:34 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


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posted by swlabr at 8:42 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Unioncat at 8:45 PM on September 13, 2009


I read The Basketball Diaries, but I've never seen the film. I think about it all the time.
RIP Jim Carroll.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:46 PM on September 13, 2009


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Basketball Diaries and Forced Entries were my bibles in high school.
posted by honestamalia at 8:52 PM on September 13, 2009


I was a freshman in college when People Who Died came out in 1980. Some guys in the dorm were familiar with the song and used to crank it up pretty loud; it became the unofficial anthem of the dorm for a while. I honestly forgot all about the song until reading this link.

Those were good times..... good times.
posted by Doohickie at 9:01 PM on September 13, 2009


octothorpe: "or maybe everyone thinks that the year they turned 16 was a golden age of music"

Nah. New York 1980 had amazing shit coming from every direction, nowhere in 1993 compares to New York 1980.
posted by idiopath at 9:03 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by Edward L at 9:10 PM on September 13, 2009


I met him several times. He was a very nice man. Bummer.

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posted by milarepa at 9:20 PM on September 13, 2009


"People Who Died" has been in my "wake the fuck up" playlist for more than a decade. It's going to be extra-effective the next time it comes around.

I salute you, brother.

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posted by rokusan at 9:23 PM on September 13, 2009



posted by Smart Dalek at 9:25 PM on September 13, 2009


Carroll wrote some amazing things, but he created one of the single greatest songs of all time. If I wrote a "." for every time I played "People Who Died" as a DJ, it would look like a galaxy. Just assume my "." means ten thousand "."

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posted by Joey Michaels at 9:27 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Kinbote at 9:32 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by roll truck roll at 9:34 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by dbiedny at 9:36 PM on September 13, 2009


Well crap ... I liked his music, and his writing.

OK Jim, fare thee well.
posted by Relay at 9:38 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by jfrancis at 9:52 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by Theta States at 10:14 PM on September 13, 2009


Loved the first record and The Basketball Diaries, which I first read/heard at 13. He was a big influence on my life: came to Frank O'Hara through Carroll and decided to train as an art curator and write personal stuff on the side like he had. I saw Carroll's band play several times in the early 1980s and they were great. Seemed like some musical spark left him after Brian Marnell died, which was a shame after coming out of the gate with such a killer. I lost track of his work, only revisiting it last year when asked to write liner notes for the reissue of "Praying Mantis." Considered that an honor, though I'm not big on spoken word. Such a terrific writer and interesting cat. The obit in the NYT is so sparse... I hope he didn't die alone, but it kind of sounds like he may have. Hope it was quick.
posted by Scram at 10:19 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by mwhybark at 10:23 PM on September 13, 2009


I guess having a master's thesis written about you at San Diego State is a bigger deal than I realized.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:36 PM on September 13, 2009


I guess what I meant is that he wouldn't have thought of himself as the kind of writer who'd be the subject of academic papers. But maybe I'm wrong!
posted by escabeche at 10:47 PM on September 13, 2009


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posted by trip and a half at 11:19 PM on September 13, 2009


And Jimmy, we miss you more than all the others ...

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posted by bwg at 12:06 AM on September 14, 2009


I was surprised at how much the movie led me into a world that I already knew, but didn't think was a part of my life, being the scum that I was in my youth.

I knew Jim Carroll in so many ways, yet never met the man. But I saw what his writing portrayed and I lived it for a good while. Good night, sir. Please let us remember you as who you portrayed in your writing, not in who we thought you were when we met you, again and again, asking us for another fix.

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I don't know about you, but heroin is a hell of a heaven.
posted by daq at 1:21 AM on September 14, 2009


missed you shall be, carroll.

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posted by squasha at 2:40 AM on September 14, 2009


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posted by El Brendano at 3:27 AM on September 14, 2009


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I first became aware of Jim as the voice heard ordering drinks & Tuinals between songs on the Velvet Underground's Max's Kansas City LP.
posted by anagrama at 4:27 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's supposed to have a new book, a novel, coming out soon. I got to listen to him telling stories in a friend's kitchen a couple years ago. That voice, the accent and still a lot of apparent pleasure in performing. Always loved his books, especially Forced Entries. Sad to see him go.

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posted by secretary bird at 4:35 AM on September 14, 2009


oh no. What a shock. He was in the middle of unfinished work. Death is always an interruption. 60 seems very young. A heart attack. I guess the years of junk wore him out.

He was a friend of mine in the Central Park hanging out around The Fountain days of 1968/1969/1970. A beautiful looking young boy then with a mane of thick red hair falling straight around his face Prince Valiant style, longer than this picture, when he had already started his junk addiction; this pic is better; mostly a loner, observing from a distance while others around him played frisbee, touch football, played their guitars, talked. I was 14/15/16 and he was 18/19/20. Other good friends were schoolmates of his at Trinity, where he got a scholarship to play basketball. They will be in shock too.

And then he rocketed up the poetry ladder while still in his teens, a NYC Rimbaud of sorts.

My voice has a quiver.
A quiver is where you keep arrows until you shoot them.
--Jim Carroll, "The Child Within"

I wish you peace Jim.
posted by nickyskye at 5:01 AM on September 14, 2009 [12 favorites]


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posted by lapolla at 7:21 AM on September 14, 2009


Jonathan Lethem on "People Who Died."
posted by escabeche at 7:22 AM on September 14, 2009


A lovely, sweet man, an amazing storyteller. You're missed, Jim.

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posted by jennyjenny at 7:25 AM on September 14, 2009


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posted by jbelshaw at 7:38 AM on September 14, 2009


He was a friend of mine in the Central Park hanging out around The Fountain

I didn't need to read to the end to know who this comment was from. Nickyskye, you are as interesting in your way as Jim was in his.
posted by caddis at 7:46 AM on September 14, 2009


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posted by drowsy at 8:07 AM on September 14, 2009


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posted by soft and hardcore taters at 8:16 AM on September 14, 2009


If I could break through I could be certain
But this obsession is like some fiery curtain
All the numbers reduced to zero
And those who died young, they are my heroes
They are my heroes, they took the walk
Where the heart made sense and the mind can't talk


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posted by Monsters at 8:30 AM on September 14, 2009


I heard Jim read from Forced Entries at the Mabuhay Gardens back in 1986. He was an incredible storyteller.

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posted by echolalia67 at 9:33 AM on September 14, 2009


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posted by Lynsey at 10:37 AM on September 14, 2009


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posted by aquanaut at 10:42 AM on September 14, 2009


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posted by feste at 12:25 PM on September 14, 2009


In the subscription of hearts
In the strangled teeth of work
In the judgment of each word
In the end, pretend you hear me.


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posted by scody at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2009


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posted by aught at 1:18 PM on September 14, 2009


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posted by brevator at 1:44 PM on September 14, 2009


I loved "People Who Died" in two contradictory ways: First as a raucous and demented sick joke that appealed to my raucous, demented, and sicko teenage brain. Only after reading Basketball Diaries did I realize it was a actually a remarkable response to a shit-ton of real grief.

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posted by whuppy at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2009


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posted by sabira at 2:07 PM on September 14, 2009


My first exposure to Jim Caroll was his spoken word segment in the Rancid song "Junkie Man".
posted by AOTF at 2:09 PM on September 14, 2009


As others have said: I salute you, brother.
posted by basicchannel at 2:59 PM on September 14, 2009


Got these on my audio player in my "spoken word" section, along with Burroughs, Giorno, Anderson, Gysin and others. I think he's in some fine company.

(direct links to .mp3 files)
Jim Carroll | from The Basketball Diaries, Age 13, Spring 1965
Jim Carroll - "A Peculiar-Looking Girl"

Link to ubuweb search results.
posted by Zack_Replica at 3:53 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


From a post on Punk not Profit: Goddamn, he really *was* that beautiful.


Now I really wish I had his books in front of me. There's something in, I think, Living at the Movies, about hearing about being in a car, hearing about Kerouac's death... that seems like it'd be just perfectly appropos. If he's reading it on any of the recordings I'm feverishly downloading at the moment, I'll come back and post it.
posted by hap_hazard at 4:06 PM on September 14, 2009


How did he die, die?
posted by Biru at 4:20 PM on September 14, 2009


Biru, Washington Post says heart attack.

I managed to make it three days without hearing this. I am saddened.

I used to do a college radio show where I played the clip from Praying Mantis of him saying, "What does not kill me only serves to make me sleep until 3:30 the next afternoon."

He deserved to outlive me.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:10 PM on September 14, 2009


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always meant to dive off that rock cut on the Harlem River that he describes in Basketball Diaries in his honor, but it wouldn't be the same without the lines of raw sewage to dodge.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:46 PM on September 14, 2009


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posted by litlnemo at 11:28 PM on September 14, 2009


Jim Carroll died on September 11, 2009.

He was at his desk working when he passed away.


An elegant exit.
posted by nickyskye at 4:01 AM on September 15, 2009


The News Hour has a rertrospective online including an interview with Patti Smith.
posted by caddis at 7:14 AM on September 15, 2009


Nice Slate obit from his editor at Penguin in the '80s, with a sweet account of the wake and funeral.
posted by scody at 1:46 PM on September 18, 2009


And a poignant NY Times article, too, for anyone who's still reading: Jim Carroll's Long Way Home
posted by scody at 2:37 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks scody, that was great.
posted by caddis at 3:46 PM on September 29, 2009


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