The Basketball Diaries

Discussion in 'Books' started by SunLion, May 29, 2004.

  1. SunLion

    SunLion Lifetime Supporter Lifetime Supporter

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    I ran across the book The Basketball Diaries, by Jim Carroll the other day; Carroll is probably best known for his 70s hit song "People Who Died." Sample lyrics:

    Teddy sniffing glue he was 12 years old, Fell from the roof on East Two-nine, Cathy was 11 when she pulled the plug, On 26 reds and a bottle of wine, Bobby got leukemia, 14 years old, He looked like 65 when he died,
    He was a friend of mine

    Carroll's book is a lot more of the above, only not so cheerfully-described. Written in the mid-1960s, it's the diary of a kid age 12 thru 15, in New York City, and is loaded with crime, violence, drugs, hatred, anger... anyone who can remember being 14 will identify with some of it. It's pretty, um, messed up.

    One of my favorite stories is where their basketball team is playing a catholic school, and one of their players steals from that school's locker room after he's thrown out of the game for drugs. But their gay pedophile coach who molests them leaves them stranded, saying "face the music" as they're chased by the local catholic-school gang led by a "tough looking Italian Priest, robes flowing." It's hilarious, dark, sick, and most of the time you just cannot sympathize with the little miscreant.

    But every now and then, the real source of his rage sneaks out in print- the war in Vietnam, racism, and the generation gap. Some of those passages are so powerful, and underscored by the dark stories of violence, death, needles, and all sorts of disturbing things. It's the kind of book that wouldn't be offensive to any teen, but would be offensive to almost any adult.

    I'm not sure I'd call it a "great" book, but parts of it are written in stunning style. For instance, he ends up talking with this little girl, his cousin I think, who talks about how baby Jesus wouldn't approve of the war in Vietnam. He sends her to tell that to her mommy.

    Carroll tries so hard to be cold-hearted and evil, but he just can't quite totally do it, though the book ends on a horrifying note. On his web site ( he says it's as much fiction as fact, but he did write it back then. Check it out if you run across it.
  2. Happy_Go_Crazy

    Happy_Go_Crazy Member

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    Didn't they make a movie about this book??

    I remember seeing the movie awhile back similar to this!
  3. baby-boy

    baby-boy Member

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    Tuck Everlasting is good but simple. Robert Heinlien's Stranger in a Strange land is timeless. The Nevada Smith section of the Carpet Baggers is a life lesson Snow Crash is runaway truck of a read (SF and a little dated - but how can you argue with a hero/protagonist named Hiro Protagonist) everyone should read TS elliots The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock and lots of e.e.cummings. 9 short stories by J.D. Salinger. Herman Hesse's "Journey to the East" The World According to Garp" made me angry. everything (at least twice) by Kurt Vonnegut (start with Cat's Cradle and work up to Mother Night) The 5 people you meet in Heaven is cloying and trite but very uplifting. Letters of Abelard and Heloise - hot and heartbreaking (makes Romeo and Juliet just another teen angst)

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