Currently showing posts tagged Jim Carroll

  • "The more I read the more I know it now, heavier each day, that I need to write." -Jim Carroll (August 1, 1949–September 11, 2009)

    And so it is also the 10th Anniversary of Jim Carroll's death today. I loved Jim Carroll, and more specifically The Basketball Diaries, from which this quote is taken from. I was once invited to write about this love, and did so for TNBBC's The Next Best Book Blog, in a piece I later titled "The Thing Before The Thing" when I revisited it for inclusion in Be Cool. Please do hit it and feel free to enjoy some excerpt below.

    "I am hunkered down at a long table at The Bottom Line in Greenwich Village. I am in my early twenties and I am waiting patiently for it to happen.

    "What is it?

    "I will tell you in a minute, because this part is about the thing before the thing.

    "The thing before the thing is that as I sit there milking my watery Gin & Tonic, tracing the sweaty trickles of condensation with my finger as it slides down the side of my glass, and as I try to be patient, or at least not a stalkerish freak, I feel someone place their hands on my shoulders and then lean over me to get a better look at the still empty stage.

    "I look up to see who it is, not that I expect I will know.

    "And yet as it turns out, I do know who it is. Not personally, but I do know, and how couldn’t I, with his clunky glass, beard, crazy Jew hair, and bemused grin.

    "It’s Allen Ginsberg, yes that Allen Ginsberg.

    "He smiles at me and then he walks away.

    "Why is this important?

    "For one, because I am terrible starfucker and Allen fucking Ginsberg has just touched me, then smiled.

    "But that’s not the most important thing.

    "No, what’s important is that Allen Ginsberg is at The Bottom Line to read that night and I had no idea that was the case.

    "How couldn’t I know that?

    "Because I am there to see Jim Carroll, he is the thing before the thing, and I had no idea, because no writer is more important to me than Jim Carroll.

    "I love him.

    "I love him like women my age love John Cusack. And why is that, because he speaks to them, and yes, Jim Carroll speaks to me in much the same way John Cusack speaks to them.

    "They don’t know John Cusack, but through watching him in Say Anything, certainly, The Sure Thing, possibly, and Serendipity, maybe, fuck, Christ, John Cusack inhabits something, an ideal of some kind, funny, passionate, tall, and crazed about the women he loves, and everyone wants crazed, until they get it anyway.

    "Like them, I don’t know Jim Carroll, technically I now know Allen Ginsberg better than Jim Carroll, but Jim Carroll wrote The Basketball Diaries, and nothing before The Basketball Diaries ever spoke to me like The Basketball Diaries did."

  • The joy of reading an unpublished interview with Jim Carroll, in New York City no less, on this otherwise sad night.

    You too may feel the unpublished Jim Carroll nterview joy here. Not to mention some excerpt below.

    Margo: I’m wondering what you think about this kind of fiction in the marketplace nowadays. Not sales potential but the idea of it – do you think people generally ignore it now? These coming-of-age novels. There’s such an influx of them, and Dan’s is such a gem. I’m worried that it will get ignored. Everybody tries to compare everything to Catcher in the Rye nowadays.

    Jim: I know, I had that too. I had it in good ways, like ‘This is the Catcher in the Rye for real’. I never really had a bad thing with the comparison with Catcher in the Rye, but that’s a real trap you don’t want to fall into.

    Margo: Right.

    Jim: Catcher in the Rye is a great book, but it’s completely different from a book that was written in real-time. Dan’s book was written almost in real-time, too. Although those years make a big difference. Like I said – judgment. The Basketball Diaries always did so well and I think it was a combination because my first record album did so well.

    The Basketball Diaries came out before the Catholic Boy album came out. I mean, rock ‘n’ roll, you get such a big audience, especially when “People Who Died” became a hit and the album did so well. It boosted the book. The book came out first but I think it was a symbiosis because people knew I was signed to the Stones’ label already. They planned to have them come out much closer together but I’m glad they came out with a distance between them of about nine months. At any rate, that definitely helped it. It sold very well every year. And of course – even though I didn’t like the movie that much – it really helped. I mean, it put it on the Bestseller list, which my publisher didn’t even expect. I got this whole new audience of young kids. When it sold so well, a lot of copies over the years, we wondered who was buying these books in such a rush to put it on the Bestseller list. Kids are not buying it because they’re just going to see Leo and Mark, we thought. But it WAS kids, because I started to get this influx of mail from kids like twelve to seventeen. And when I went to Toronto to this radio station that’s like the big FM station there – it’s like the Today show. They let viewers come in, not even look in, you can come in. You gotta stand behind a railing and they watch DJs while they’re interviewing people. I said, ‘who the fuck are these kids here for? Is Evan Dando coming or something?’ They said, ‘no they’re here for you.’ There were all these little kids with cameras, who were like twelve to eighteen or nineteen. Not only did they buy The Basketball Diaries, but they bought books of poems.

  • "Tanzer wants to eat the world." A quite grand Be Cool review from a quite grand writer I quite love.

    That's a lot of quite, grand and Be Cool, but it is all so very appreciated. Excerpt? Word.

    "This is a beautiful and honest book about what it means to be alive in the 21st century, to be a sentient being, to be a son and husband and father, to be a boyfriend, to be a drinker, to be a runner, to be an artist, and to be a fuck-up, a fuck-up which is how most of us do not identify but how all of us should. To be alive is to be a fuck-up. Anything else is a lie. Ben Tanzer knows that. Desire, which is what Tanzer means when he says be cool, is everything and it’s a motherfucker. Like his early literary hero, Jim Carroll—who he writes about here wonderfully—and eternal beatnik, Jack Kerouac, Ben Tanzer is on a quest to find out what it means to be on a quest. Unlike Carroll and Kerouac, Tanzer is as close as it gets to being enlightened. No bullshit. No God. No use pretending the world isn’t a total mess."

  • Most appreciative I am talking Be Cool, SEX AND DEATH, The Basketball Diaries and Natasha Kinski with The Rumpus.

    I am talking and I am interview and I am Be Cool and SEX AND DEATH and The Basketball Diaries and I truly am thankful for The Rumpus and the quite awesome Gina Prescott for making it so. Excerpt? Word.

    Rumpus: Okay, let’s get into the questions I have actually prepared. My first is broad, and I think it’s fun. What is your personal, down and dirty, definition of cool or coolness? Feel free to provide examples to elucidate your point—cool things, cool people.

    Tanzer: That’s a good, fun question. I think the definition—or the version—I’ve spent much of my life striving for—and it’s embarrassing to think about, but fun to write about—is this sense that the choices you’re making, the things that are important to you, the way you want to live or could live, are things that are recognized by the public as things that seem cool.

    I’ve always been interested what I’ve been interested in, but I’ve also been interested in being cool, for sure. I feel like as a young adult, I moved away from a lot of what I loved. Consciously, I didn’t think they were cool enough, and I tried to figure out what was cool. Now, I think the important part is that the people you intersect with see you as cool. That’s my personal definition. I think the definition is really the ability to be in your own skin wherever you are and trust and know that whatever version that is that you are living and breathing it and you are unbothered whether people are reacting to it. And that’s what I have tried to do as I’ve gotten older. I’m very fanboy about things that I get excited about. I’m not able to be cool about it. For long time, I suppressed that as an adult, and I decided to drop it. If I’m excited about something, I let myself be excited about it. It’s very freeing. So I think a part of being cool to me when I was younger, was trying to figure what people respond to in a way that gives you a sense of adulation. And now I think being cool is understanding what you love or makes you feel good and embracing it, regardless of how you think people come to it. How’s that?

  • Quite self-absorbedly geeked to let you know about The TNB Self-Interview I did for Be Cool.

    So please do check it out here. Or even here. Cool? Cool. And excerpt? Most definitely.


    Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here, and I appreciate the chance to talk with you about my new essay collection Be Cool—a memoir (sort of) from Dock Street press.


    Well, great, congratulations, truly, should we get right into the questions?

    Yes, of course, soft ball questions, right, I hope.


    Yeah, sure, anyway, so, navel-gazing…?



    You know, the activity of thinking too much or too deeply about yourself, your experiences, your feelings, etc. That’s from Merriam-Webster.

    Is that a question?


    No, not exactly, that was more of a reaction to your question, which was in response to my initial query. But if you don’t mind, I’m going to ask the questions here.

    You know, I had a therapist say that to me once.


    Yeah, how did that turn out?

    Not so good. But to your non-question, question, am I concerned about there being too much navel-gazing in Be Cool, no, I don’t think so, that never even crossed my mind. Really, it seems like writing personal essays would almost automatically engender that.


    Does that mean, that from your perspective, writing an essay collection, memoir (sort of) does not involve thinking too much or too deeply about oneself?

    Oh no, it does, but writing, ideally, is still something else entirely to me. You are attempting to craft a narrative that taps into universal themes, which just might offer the reader insight into themselves, if not actual entertainment and escape. And these are good things, and certainly the reasons why I read what I read.


    So, do you consider yourself an entertainer?

    At times, yes. Am I consciously engaged in the act of amusing or entertaining, also Merriam-Webster, absolutely. I want the reader to be engaged, and moved, and in my head. Does that also mean there is pain and confusion? Yes, of course there is.