Jim Carroll is dead

I don’t have many firm ideological beliefs about novels, but here’s one:  you can’t write a good novel by good luck.  No matter what your life story is, no matter what a raconteur you are, it takes years of practice, intense attention to boring detail work, and thorough rewriting if you want to produce anything worthwhile on the page.

Also good luck, of course.

You can’t have a good hearty ideological belief without a counterexample, and mine is The Basketball Diaries, a beautiful memoir/novel which was more or less a greatest hits collection from Jim Carroll’s diary, ages 13-16.  I like the way it shouldn’t be as good as it is.

I used to buy used copies whenever I’d run across them and give them to people.  I gave one to a girlfriend in college.  (For college friends, the one whose name rhymes with “I need a DJ on Ramadan.”)  She gestured in the direction of her bookshelf, where there was already a copy, and said “Men always give me that book.”

I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean that to be as crushing as it was.

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One thought on “Jim Carroll is dead

  1. Carl Wilson says:

    hey Jordan – Actually, it’s not as much of a blow to your theory as you think: It was published when Carroll was in his late 20s, and I’m fairly sure he spent a long time editing and honing it, rather than just tossing the diary entries in. (Not that he rewrote so much as that he excised carefully.) I’m told he was a really hard worker – like anyone, most of the time, who makes it look easy.

    Great college story though!

    RIP Jim Carroll.

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