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The Basketball Diaries Paperback – July 7, 1987

4.6 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jim Carroll’s bestselling memoir The Basketball Diaries was first released in 1978 and adapted as a film in 1995. Carroll’s work includes several collections of poetry as well as a asecond memoir, Forces Entries: The Downtown Diaries 1971-1973. As the leader of The Jim Carroll Band he released three albums as well as several spoken word recordings. He died in New York City on September 11, 2009.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; First Edition edition (July 7, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140100180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140100181
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whether you believe any of these stories actually occurred is really not the point of a contemporary reading of this classic Kerouac/Ginsberg era troupe through New York City's emerging drug sub-culture. Jim Carroll, in all of his hip early `60s rap and rhetorical escapades, delivers a stunningly irreverent but amazingly still relevant tome about maturation in the blighted streets and overwhelmingly potent drug society of the early 1960s New York counter-culture era. In this profound "diary," we watch as a pre-eminently street-smart 13 year old weed-smoking, LSD popping and occasional Heroin seeking basketball hero deteriorates into a 16 year old junkie, resorting to whatever means possible to get money for his next fix.

The obvious and pre-eminent contemporary reason for taking this short work on is to compare it with the 1995 blockbuster film of the same name starring Leonardo DeCaprio. The comparable titles is where the similarities end however...the book and the film are completely different. And in this reviewer's opinion, and as is almost always the case, this book far exceeds the movie.

Starting in the Fall of 1963, we're immediately thrown into Carroll's world of mid-town Manhattan as he romps with a variety of like-minded youth and city scum. With a constant theme of drug searching overwhelming each entry, Carrol extols in very clear and contemporarily charming 1960's hip New York language his escapades getting high, having sex, getting into small but growing criminal activity and becoming a general nuisance. The basketball entries are very cool also...
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