The Basketball Diaries

by Jim Carroll

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Bobby Blake
Bobby Blake is one of Carroll’s junkie friends who gets high and performs ridiculous, illegal acts.

Mr. Bluster
Mr. Bluster is the principal at the Catholic private school Carroll attends on scholarship. Bluster gets Carroll released early from Riker’s juvenile prison.

Brian Browning
Brian Browning is one of Carroll’s junkie friends and is one of two men who rent the apartment that serves as Headquarters—the local junkie hangout. When Carroll is strung out and needing a heroin fix, Browning goes to get it for him while Jim waits with his older lover. Browning notes that junkies curl up into fetal positions because they are trying to get back to the womb.

Jim Carroll
Carroll is the author and narrator of The Basketball Diaries, an autobiographical account of Carroll’s coming of age on New York’s tough streets. In the first entries, Carroll is a thirteen-year-old who has had limited experience with sex, drugs, and crime. Carroll is also a novice basketball player in his first organized league. All of these aspects of his life change rapidly. He becomes a star basketball player, winning a scholarship to a rich private school. He has many heterosexual experiences and starts using increasingly harder drugs. His heroin addiction starts out small, and he lies to himself about being able to control it. However, as his addiction grows, it changes the quality of every other aspect of his life. He starts committing more crimes, including stealing cars, in order to finance his drug habit. In addition, he makes money by selling his body to homosexuals and older women. As his use of heroin and other drugs grows to include cough syrup, various kinds of pills, methadone, cocaine, and LSD, drugs become the central focus of his life, replacing even his love of basketball. In fact, his massive drug use destroys his dream of playing professional basketball and eventually lands him in juvenile prison. At the end of the diaries, Carroll surfaces from a four-day heroin high and laments about how low he has sunk in life. He says that he only wants to be pure.

Over the course of the diaries, Carroll is exposed to several cultural and political issues. He makes scathing attacks on hypocrisy. He condemns the U.S. use of the communist scare as a justification for building more nuclear weapons and engaging in the Vietnam War. He notes that poor junkies like him do not have the same treatment programs or escape options as middle-class or rich junkies have. He exposes the hypocrisy of narcotics police, who keep most confiscated drugs for themselves—to sell it on the streets. Ultimately, he predicts the publication of The Basketball Diaries, in which he intends to expose these views and facts.

Carroll’s Father
Carroll’s father is largely absent in the diaries. Even when he and his father talk, the conversation generally ends badly. Carroll is against the Vietnam War, while his father is for it. Also, Carroll wears his hair long like other members of the counterculture, something that bothers his father and his father’s friends, who goad Carroll’s father into picking fights with his son.

Carroll’s Mother
Carroll’s mother is largely absent in the diaries. She finds a bag of her son’s marijuana, but Carroll fools her into thinking that he does not have a drug problem. When he is in Riker’s juvenile prison, she does not come to see him.

Carroll’s Older Lover
Carroll describes an affair he has with an older woman, a rich divorcée who makes Carroll engage in bizarre sex acts in exchange for paying for his drug...

(This entire section contains 978 words.)

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habit. However, when she tries to force a strung-out Carroll to have sex with her, he breaks off the affair.

Marc Clutcher
The junkie Marc Clutcher is one of Carroll’s basketball teammates. Along with Carroll and Anton Neutron, Clutcher performs poorly on the team because of his drug use. With others, Clutcher witnesses the woman who tries to commit suicide by jumping out of a window. He also smuggles peyote back from Mexico.

Deborah Duckster
Deborah Duckster, one of Carroll’s neighborhood friends, is a model. When Willie gets too drunk one night, he lunges for her, and she kicks him in the groin, knocking him out. Duckster witnesses the woman who tries to commit suicide by jumping out of a window.

Benny Greenbaum
Benny Greenbaum is a homosexual college scout who travels with Carroll’s high school team to some games. Greenbaum pays one of the team members to perform oral sex and gropes Carroll in his hotel room—under the pretense of fitting Carroll for a college uniform.

Lefty
Lefty is Carroll’s basketball coach in the Biddy League; Carroll suspects that Lefty is a homosexual, since Lefty gropes his players.

Jimmy Mancole
Jimmy Mancole is one of Carroll’s junkie friends. When the police raid Headquarters after a noise complaint, Mancole retaliates against the woman next door, whom he assumes made the complaint. Mancole and Carroll almost get caught shooting up in the park, and then they are swindled by a Mexican drug dealer. Mancole gives Carroll his first heroin shot when Carroll gets out of Riker’s and helps Carroll mug people in the park.

Anton Neutron
The junkie Anton Neutron is one of Carroll’s basketball teammates. Along with Carroll and Marc Clutcher, Neutron allows drug use to affect his performance on the team.

Willie
The junkie Willie is one of Carroll’s old basketball teammates. Willie is the first person who smokes marijuana with Carroll at school. Willie gets so drunk one night that he is rushed to the hospital to get his stomach pumped. Willie gets revenge on an assailant by spiking the person’s soda with a dangerously large amount of crystal amphetamine.

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