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The Basketball Diaries
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
For a teenage diary, this is extremely well written. Jim Carroll was clearly a gifted writer, and his diary brings the New York City streets of the mid-60's to life. His vivid descriptions of growing up as a street wise kid on the mean streets of the city clearly paint a picture of the period.

That said, this is was NOT a fun book to read. There is much about Carroll's life in this period that is not pretty. His growing dependency on drugs is readily apparent as the book progresses, as is his willingness to do almost anything to pay for his next fix. There are graphic descriptions of both the drug use and his sexual encounters, but even so there is a sense of honesty in the account that somehow seems to be redeeming. In the end, this is a powerful glimpse into a life on the streets.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
I saw the movie before it came out and I liked it. I didn't know what I was missing. Now that I read the original source I know what a load of Disney-fied garbage I was watching. Instead of a tale about "the loss of innocence" this is a horrifying and hilarilious trip through Hell as Jim Carroll gets more and more into the hustling junkie lifestyle. While Catholic Boy is a great CD, Carroll would never write anything so raw and crazy again.
Most of my perspective comes from the movie so bear with me. In the movie, Leonardo tries heroin as part of his downward spiral and it really turns the movie dark. In the book, he tries heroin almost at the beginning and complains because he always thought that pot got you high. In the movie Leonardo is hitching rides on buses at the beginning and turning to nastier crimes later on. In the book Carroll is describing the best methods for purse snatching. In the movie, Leonardo hustles for tricks as one of the last signs that he's fallen from grace. In the book, Carroll complains about the gay johns who make him go to baseball games or want him to whip cats to death ("unfortunately for him I was in a cat-loving mood that day and whipped him instead"). In the movie there is a helpful friend who tries to get him off of drugs. That guy is fortunately absent in the book. In the movie there is a long sequence about the best friend with cancer. In the book, he's creeped out by the corpse but that's about it.
In essence, the movie serves up a rough-around-the-edges kid who gets into a bad situation that only gets worse. The book by contrast has Jim Carroll pure and malignant, snatching purses and shooting up without a care as to the consequences. He's a nasty little punk and he deserves most of what happens to him. This is probably why Carroll's later stuff isn't as popular. Much of what makes this book great is how repulsed and intrigued you are with the narrator. When Jim Carroll grew up, kicked the addiction and stopped being such a creep, it was great for him and anyone around him, but he lost the main voice and never replaced it with anything quite so compelling.
After you read this book you should check out with Patti Smith's early book of poetry, Please Kill Me about the New York punk scene in which Carroll featured prominently and Catholic Boy. YOu might also want to watch the movie as it isn't bad by DiCaprio standards, although pretty awful by the standards of the book.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2004
This is a complete arc of drug use - from the narrator's first sniff of glue on a ferry as a thirteen year old to a late teenager in an apartment in one very bad state. At first humorous, the narrative increasingly becomes the story of a young adult's miserable descent into addiction. Though Carroll yearns to be pure and real, his writing is fluid from the first page through its deeply vivid, sensual and emotive descriptions. Frustration, fear, annoyance, contempt, and euphoria are all communicated through but a few phrases, and often the accounts require no commentary whatsoever.

Having seen and loved the film I was naturally comparing and contrasting the two throughout - unlike the film, however, there are no guardian angels in real life. Instead by the last pages of Basketball Diaries we see Carroll consciously having hit rock bottom. When I first saw the film I felt frustration because it seemed that to comment on the world of heroine-use one must be a heroine user. No other way seems to exist to enter that world deep enough and gain its inhabitant's trust. However, reading the book it became apparent that Carroll is simply one who likes looking into the things and people around him with more depth than most - and has the passion to put those insights onto paper.

In reading Basketball Diaries I developed enough contempt for Carroll to convince me never to follow the same path. His wit, intelligence and athleticism - all which he maintains while engaging various habits - meant however that I was also grudgingly admiring of him.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2000
This is one of my favorite books. I read it originally when I was 16, and rereading it at 35, I was struck at how different my perspective was. At 16, it didn't feel like a downward spiral - just a progression of growing up. I also highly recommend his book Forced Entries, which is a good continuation. I have to say I enjoy Carroll's prose a bit more than his poetry.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2006
The Basketball Diaries by New York City Punk Poet Laureate Jim Carroll is a diary of his life between the ages of 12 and 16. The literary level he achieves is stunning given his youth. The subject matter, while serious, is not near as dark as other reviewers have suggested. Although drug usage plays an ever increasing role in Carroll's life to the detriment of his grades, sports, etc., many parts of the diary are laugh-out-loud funny. The "anything for a laugh or a high" ethic of Carroll and his buddies is something that many of us can relate to as we think back on our youth. Usually with a mixture of regrets and smiles. It is a perilous journey that does end in ultimate tragedy for some. But not Carroll. He has survived (and thrived) for years now as a poet and musician. In light of this knowledge, his diary doesn't seem as desparate and moribund as it could have been. This is in no way an affirmation of drug usage and I'm not trying to minimize its potential dangers. Jim Carroll's account of his descent into mainline heroin addiction is somewhat harrowing. But this book is much more than just a junkie's story. It is wonderfully written and is very effective at conveying not just the trials of youth but some of it's joys as well. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2001
I admire Jim Carroll for publishing this diary the best and most effective way possible- the whole and solid truth, not doctored with fairy tell endings or caviar dreams. This book depicted what I would honestly believe to be the days of living on the streets and becoming a Heroin junkie in New York City in the late 60's.
The truth was told and told passionatley and completley. Pretty picturesque references were not painted, disturbing scenes not alluded to. If something needed to be said, it was - no matter how hard it may be for the reader to accept. The most frightening thing about the entire diary is it allows you to see how easily this lifestyle can become your own, without really ever realizing or intending it to happen. I think most of socitey considers heroin junkies moraless, disgusting, putrid and empty souls; but Jim allows you to see into thier world, live in thier minds and have empathy for thier lifestyle. It sort of reminded me of 'A Clockwork Orange'; I viddy parallells between both protragonists and thier drogs. However, Jim Carroll didn't sell out at the end.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 1999
I saw the movie, The Basketball Diaries, years ago, and subsequently kept hearing how awesome the book is. But I never got around to actually reading it. Until, I was in a friend's house recently and perusing her bookshelfs saw it. I borrowed it and within 2 days read the entire book. It's quite disturbing, even more so because I live a few blocks above Inwood - - where Carrol lived and where much of the book took place - - in Kingsbridge . Reading The BD's I felt like, 30 years later, I know a bunch of Jim Carrol's running around playing the same downward spiraling game. Carrol has an amazing ability to capture his own life on paper. I'm just wondering Jim, are you pure yet?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2002
Jim Carroll started to write this diary when he was only 12 years of age. At this time, he was finding every drug he could could get into his hands and took his first shot of heroin when he was only 13 years of age. A dark book, in the juvenile sense, but in the poetic sense, a book about a excellent book about searching for something pure. A reviewer wrote, "I think that this book was written to tell other teenagers not to use drugs." That's not true. It's a true story and merely a diary of truth. It became known as a biography for the rock star Jim Carroll. Another reviewer wrote, "This book is dark and vulgar." It is. It is really. But if you look at the book this way, there's no reason you should be reading it. Think of it this way, Puke and Pure. At the last entry of the diary Jim is in the headquarters a place where junkies from all over hang out, totally zonked and saying, "I got to go in and puke. I just want to be pure..." To me, the diary is about a lost young poet trying to find redemption through writing and finds that, not at the end, but at the end of when he becomes pure. This diary is vulgar and dark. Many swear wrods come into place, and many sexual indescence is in this book. But in the end Jim, the young poet is looking for redemption through his writing and searching for something pure...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2001
Carroll's a superb writer who can really capture the mood and voice of the sixties. Who would have thought Carroll actually played with playground legends like "The Goat" and Abdul-Jabbar?! It does read like "Catcher in the Rye" though it draws from true life experience. Carrol's most famous work is really an impressive book. It is an intriguing mix of humour, skepticism, sadness and excitement. It does not glorify or really condemn drug abuse, it presents it as it is to a junkie. This book is something and can be simply summarized as a book that presents things as it is, nothing more nothing less.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 1999
This is a very compelling read that is excellently written. It is very unfortunate that someone had to live this life but at least they got away from it eventually. You do feel like you are following Jim Carroll through the ups and downs (there are many downs) of his teenage life. All in all a book that will never date and that everyone should get a chance to read.
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