As a teenage basketball star in the 1960s at Trinity, an elite private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Jim Carroll led a chaotic life that combined sports, drugs and poetry. This is what led to him writing The Basketball Diaries, the journal he kept during high school and that was published in 1978. The book, which is generally referred to by its main title alone, had started appearing in excerpt form throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s in various literary publications.
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Carroll claimed that the diaries were written at the time in which the events related took place.The diaries began, innocently: Today was my first Biddy League game and my first day in any organized basketball league. I’m enthused about life due to this exciting event. Carroll describes how he’s excited to be playing basketball in a 12 and younger league that his coach got him a fake birth certificate to join since he was 13 at the time. He speaks fondly of his coach but he suspects that he may be a homosexual. From this first entry you immediately get a feel for the type of person that Carroll is, he’s young but very bright and observant. In his 2nd entry when his friend Tony pulls out a bottle of CARBONA cleaning fluid and a few rags and suggests that they do a little sniffing to get high Carroll is all for it stating I was up for this idea because CARBONA is one of the highest cheap highs you can get. I was shocked to read that he was already sniffing glue at such a young age and was so nonchalant about it. I could already tell that things would be a downward spiral from here.
Later on in the book when his mom states Idle time is a devil’s plaything she perfectly describes how bad things come into your life when you have too much time on your hands and you become bored you start to make choices that aren’t the best and that’s exactly what he does throughout the whole book he continues to make poor choices. He starts to realize that he is slowly growing more and more addicted to heroin First, it’s a Saturday night thing when you feel cool like a gangster or a rockstar- just something to kill the boredom, you know? They call it a chippie, a small habit. It feels so good, you start doing it on Tuesdays… then Thursdays… then it’s got you. Every wise ass punk on the block says it won’t happen to them, but it does.” His addiction to heroin also prevented him from excellingin basketball.By the end of the book, Carroll was a full blown heroin addict who supported his habit by hustling in Times Square. Totally zonked, and all the dope scraped or sniffed clean from the tiny cellophane bags, the final entry read, continuing, I can see the Cloisters with its million in medieval art out the bedroom window. I got to go in and puke. I just want to be pure. he would also hook so he could get money to get more drugs. Carroll lived a very chaotic life and his talent in writing brought out a realness to it that wasn’t really seen before. Most people have a glorified version of what the 60’s were really like but thanks to The Basketball Diaries it brought out the darkness that also went on such as the very real and serious struggle with addiction that Carroll faced as well as many other people during that time.
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