The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll

Douglas Forsythe, Poet, Columnist

I recently had the urge to read about New York. More specifically, I wished to delve into the New York of yesteryear, that of the 60s and thus a decrepit city lacking the grandeur it once possessed. So I picked up The Basketball Diaries, a piece compiled from the journals kept by poet/musician Jim Carroll during his youth. Growing up in New York in the 1960s, he lived the punk lifestyle before the movement even began. Smoking pot in old apartment buildings and shooting up drugs in central park, tales of robbery, skipping school, and sexual experiences dot the narrative along with many games of basketball. 

Carroll doesn’t glorify his actions, yet he tells of them with brutal honesty. His description paints a human portrait of the addict; they are just like you or I. They are fathers, mothers, and children, all at the whim of the same master. Hell, if anything, the novel makes you want to avoid the lifestyle altogether. 

When considering the prose, one finds the honesty mentioned above. Having written the novel as a teen, Carroll provides a sense of maturity found amongst the juvenile sense of humor and adolescent angst littered throughout the text. He critiques everything from the Catholic school he attends to the cops arresting dealers and profiting from the drugs they put back into the market. It presents a clear example of a youth forced to grow up before their time. Though this read will go by very quickly, it is very much worth your time. Feel free to check it out from the school library, that’s how I read it.