Seamus Cooney (review date 1 November 1973)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Living at the Movies, in Library Journal, Vol. 11, No. 19, November 1, 1973, p. 3270.

[In the following brief review, Cooney faults Carroll's poetry in Living at the Movies.]

These imitative poems range in models from the portentous pseudo-reference of John Ashbery to the flat trivialities of Ted Berrigan—the whole gamut from A to B, in fact. Not one moves or delights, and as for teaching—well, the outlook on life conveyed is the shallowest hedonism based on dope or sex. A piece entitled “A Fragment” has more point than many in the book and shows fairly the pretensions to seriousness, the inertness of rhythm and language, and the utter banality of effect: “When I see a rabbit / crushed by a moving van / I have dreams of maniac computers / miscalculating serious items / pertinent to our lives.” Don’t miscalculate: avoid this book.

Gerard Malanga (review date November 1974)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Living at the Movies, in Poetry, Vol. 125, No. 3, November, 1974, pp. 162-65.

[In the following review, Malanga favorably assesses Carroll's Living at the Movies, commenting on the original technique and confident voice employed in the collection. Malanga also compares Carroll to well-known poet Frank O'Hara.]

The great thing about the work of a genuine poet is the atmosphere which it creates in the mind of the reader. This is as difficult to define as it is impossible to miss. It has a great deal to do with technique and with style, but only in so far as they are an integral part of the feeling and thinking that go to make up a...

(The entire section is 673 words.)

Jamie James (review date February 1980)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Basketball Diaries, in American Book Review, Vol. 2, No. 2, February, 1980, p. 9.

[In the following review, James lauds The Basketball Diaries.]

The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll is a literary miracle; a description of the formation of an artistic sensibility written by the artist, not in retrospect, but in the process. It is a portrait of the artist not just as a young man but as a child, written by the child, and thus free of the mature artist’s complicated romantic love of himself in pain. It also works engrossingly well as a narrative, The Catcher in the Rye for real, for bigger stakes.


(The entire section is 1159 words.)

Chet Flippo (essay date 26 January 1981)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Star Is Borning,” in New York, Vol. 14, No. 4, January 26, 1981, pp. 32-5.

[In the following essay, Flippo addresses Carroll's move from poetry writer to rock musician and interviews the poet/songwriter about his life, his former drug addiction, and his literary influences.]

Lola from Budapest is a bit of a psychic, among other things, and one afternoon not long ago, when she settled into her customary front-row seat in NBC’s Studio 3A in Rockefeller Center for the taping of the Tomorrow show, she just naturally started divining things and reading life lines and such. Lola from Budapest—that’s the way she’s billed on her business cards and...

(The entire section is 3753 words.)

Publishers Weekly (review date 4 April 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Book of Nods, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 229, No. 14, April 4, 1986, pp. 57-8.

[In the following negative review, the critic chastises Carroll and the collection of prose and poetry Living at the Movies.]

Carroll would like to be poetry’s renegade stepchild, an avant-gardist, the forerunner of a new art form. These poems and prose pieces show exposure to Borges, Kafka, particularly Rimbaud—the romantic, drug-taking exception to all rules who has stymied many scholars and led many bright children astray. The original attraction of Carroll was a sort of jejune decadence, which he has, since his Living at the Movies (1973), pretty much outworn. This collection, about the poet’s deepest emotional experiences in California and New York over the last 10 years, is wincingly embarrassing. It is especially painful because Carroll’s real talent often peeps through the dross. This is a bad example of serious talent destroyed over the years by negligence and disregard for self-discipline.

Daniel L. Guillory (review date 15 April 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Book of Nods, in Library Journal, Vol. 111, No. 7, April 15, 1986, p. 84.

[In the following brief review, Guillory praises Carroll's ability to shock readers with incongruous images in The Book of Nods.]

Carroll’s prose poems (or “nods”) are like verbal equivalents of Dali’s paintings: a man vomits the hands of a clock (in “Silent Money”) and a cat jumps into a mirror (in “Watching the Schoolyard”). But these incongruities quickly lose their shock value, and Carroll sometimes fails to create a meaningful context for his images. More successful are his conventional lyric poems. In “A Night Outing,” for example, the poet admires “the way still grey water / Throws the moon / … right back at itself.” “New York Variations” and “California Variations” amount to interlocking meditations on urban landscapes “where diesel trains pass at noon every day.” The Book of Nods is always interesting if sometimes uneven.

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt (review date 9 July 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Basketball Diaries and Forced Entries, in New York Times, July 9, 1987, p. C23.

[In the following review, Lehmann-Haupt discusses The Basketball Diaries and its sequel, Forced Entries, and the evolution of Carroll's voice and storytelling abilities.]

Jim Carroll is a poet and rock musician in his mid-30’s who grew up in several poor sections of Manhattan, the son and grandson of Irish Catholic bartenders. In the fall of 1963, when he was all of 13 years old, he began keeping a diary: “Today was my first Biddy League game and my first day in any organized basketball league. I’m enthused about life due to this...

(The entire section is 1045 words.)

Peter Delacorte (review date 12 July 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Follow-Through beyond the Hoop,” in San Francisco Chronicle, July 12, 1987, p. 3.

[In the following review, Delacorte lauds Carroll's ability to create witty one-liners and clever vignettes in Forced Entries, but asserts that the book lacks substance and has an unfulfilling conclusion.]

Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries was an extraordinary piece of work—an account of four years, more or less, in the life of a kid growing up in New York City.

The kid happened to be a basketball star, a thief, a male prostitute and an incipient junkie, so there was plenty of action and things got pretty lurid. But still the most...

(The entire section is 1271 words.)

Kirkus Reviews (review date 15 May 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Forced Entries, in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. 55, No. 9, May 15, 1987, p. 767.

[In the following review, the critic pans Forced Entries for its lack of substance. While acknowledging the occasional flashes of intense humor and wit, the critic derides Carroll for providing too much debauchery and not enough intellectual or literary content.]

A slice of the debauched life of poet Carroll at the tail end of the 60’s, before he embarked on a second, dual career as a rock singer.

Carroll achieved recognition early in his 20s with the publication of Living at the Movies, his first collection of poetry, and The...

(The entire section is 323 words.)

William Hochswender (review date 18 October 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Way They Were in Greenwich Village,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 18, 1987, p. 10.

[In the following review, Hochswender praises the “ornate and harrowingly stark” writing collected in Forced Entries. Despite his contention that the stories in the collection are often self-indulgent and filled with slang, Hochswender asserts that Carroll's energetic language and creative descriptions give his memoirs an authenticity that mainstream documentaries lack.]

In this country we now have a permanent counterculture. The symbols of rebellion may change with the generations, but the dialectical swing has become constant. To the gray...

(The entire section is 1630 words.)

Jim Carroll with Thomas Gladysz (interview date 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Verbal Entries: An Interview with Jim Carroll,” in The Booksmith Reader,

[In the following interview, portions of which also appeared in The Street, Gladysz and Carroll discuss Carroll's writing career, his methods of writing Forced Entries and The Basketball Diaries, his literary influences, and his rehabilitation from heroin use.]

Perhaps best known as a rock musician, Jim Carroll is also an accomplished poet and writer. His best lyrics, such as “People Who Died,” are themselves a kind of poetry. Recently, a film based on his best-selling book, The Basketball Diaries, was released to general acclaim. His...

(The entire section is 3233 words.)

Cassie Carter (essay date Winter 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘A Sickness That Takes Years to Perfect’: Jim Carroll's Alchemical Vision” in Dionysos: Literature and Addiction Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 1, Winter 1996, pp. 6-19.

[In the following essay, Carter offers an assessment of Carroll's diaries, poems, and rock lyrics. Carter discusses the role of Carroll's drug use and addiction in the “ongoing struggle to transform the raw materials of his life into a pure reality” that defines him as an artist.]

pollution is a result of the inability of man to transform waste. the transformation of waste is perhaps the oldest preoccupation of man. gold, being the chosen alloy, must be resurrected—via...

(The entire section is 5610 words.)

Publishers Weekly (review date 28 September 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Void of Course, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 245, September 28, 1998, p. 96.

[In the following brief review, the critic discusses the poems in Void of Course.]

An alternately self-exposing and swaggering Bukowskian diarist, Carroll reinforces his rock-star-like pop culture niche with his latest volume of poetry, which somewhat resembles a compilation of power ballads. Given that Carroll’s fame was established by the beloved 1970's memoir of drug addiction The Basketball Diaries, it makes sense that his poetry [in Void of Course] works to further the author’s forever young and ostensibly hip public image, as in this ode to the...

(The entire section is 292 words.)

Booklist (review date 15 October 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Void of Course, in Booklist, Vol. 95, No. 4, October 15, 1998, p. 389.

[In the following brief review, the critic lauds Carroll's poetic ability in Void of Course.]

Carroll, experienced with heroin himself, offers belated advice to the corpse of Kurt Cobain in the volume-opening “8 Fragments for Kurt Cobain”: the price of genius mixed with that of fame makes a fatal cocktail, “which starts out as a kiss / And follows like a curse.” Desperation and desire emanate from Carroll’s verse [in Void of Course], but with a certain poignancy, as if these words just have to be said. Carroll exhumes his life and loves, and his candor at...

(The entire section is 202 words.)

Jim Carroll with Suzan Alteri (interview date 13–19 January 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Unspoken Genius,” in Real Detroit Weekly, January 13–19, 2000.

[In the following interview, Alteri questions Carroll about his spoken-word recordings, his feelings about poetry, his drug addiction, and the conflict between his musical career and his literary aspirations.]

[Alteri:] Why did you start doing spoken word performances?

[Carroll:] Well readings is just another name for spoken word performance I guess. When the whole spoken word thing happened, you know new things came along like slams and people doing more amalgamating performance art with spoken word pieces. Usually in the old days, performance art happenings,...

(The entire section is 7284 words.)