Basketball Diaries, The

Basketball Diaries, The
by Jim Carroll
   Begun at age 12 as a journal, The Basketball Diaries depicts a young, talented basketball player and his descent into heroin addiction on the streets of 1960s inner-city New York. In 1995 the book was made into an excellent film by director Scott Kalvert starring Leonardo DiCaprio. In the book The Basketball Diaries, like his literary predecessor Holden Caulfield, jim carroll is disillusioned with the adult world and its blindness to what is real and pure. For Carroll, this takes place in the mentally exhausting context of the constant threat of communist attack and nuclear war. Who better to tell it like he sees it than a 15-year-old kid seeking honesty and solace in a diary—a writer unfettered as yet by literary contrivance and at the same time easily forgiven for it. He writes about his diaries: Soon I’m gonna wake a lot of dudes off their asses and let them know what’s really going down in the blind alley out there in the pretty streets with double garages. . . . I’m just really a wise ass kid getting wiser and I’m going to get even somehow for your dumb hatreds and all them war baby dreams you left in my scarred bed with dreams of bombs falling above that cliff I’m hanging steady to.
   His tool for getting even becomes his writing: “maybe someday just an eight page book, that’s all, and each time a page gets turned a section of the Pentagon goes up in smoke. Solid.” Carroll plans a shock so thorough and real that it will register from suburbia to Washington, D.C.
   So Carroll trades home and the metaphorical bomb shelter for the open and more real scene on the streets, taking his education from the tumultuous 1960s of drug experimentation, peace marches, and race riots rather than from his parents or his “barb-wire grade school.” Within the first few pages the reader is placed in the middle of young kids fighting and taking drugs, sniffing cleaning fluid to get high, and “snatching hand bags off ladies.” Thinking it less addictive than pot, Carroll first experienced heroin at age 13: “So, as simple as a walk to that cellar, I lost my virgin veins.” Realizing his mistake, he writes, “Since I got the facts straight I only use H once in a moon.” Yet, what he calls a little “Pepsi-Cola habit” develops quickly into a fullblown addiction, and Carroll likewise moves from snatching handbags to “the fag hustling scene,” exchanging sexual acts for money, his grades steadily dropping, his basketball career slowly vanishing. Blending the disturbing image of a very young addict with the humorous antics of a rebellious and exuberant teen, The Basketball Diaries poignantly carries on the spontaneous and confessional tradition of Beat greats jack kerouac and William S. Burroughs. The final entry finds Carroll on a four-day binge, “thin as a wafer of concentrated rye,” his addiction totally taking over. He leaves the reader with a mixed message of hope and despair with these troubling last lines: “I got to go in and puke. I just want to be pure. . . .”
■ Kuennen, Cassie Carter. “Cheetah and Chimp: The Basketball Diaries as Minor Literature.” The Jim Carroll Website. 1989.
   Jennifer Cooper

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

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  • Basketball Diaries — The Basketball Diaries The Basketball Diaries est un livre publié en 1978, écrit par l auteur américain Jim Carroll, dans lequel il décrit la décadence de Jim, un jeune homme blanc prometteur, joueur de basket brillant, dans le New York des… …   Wikipédia en Français

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