In today’s New York Times Book Review, there is an interview with the novelist and poet Sherman Alexie. While giving a list of his favorite novelists, he mentions Jim Carroll, who emerged from the New York School poetry scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and went on to gain fame as the author of the powerful memoir The Basketball Diaries, as well as for his forays into rock music. This caught my eye because I wouldn’t have expected Carroll to be one of Alexie’s chief influences.
But a bit further on in the interview, Alexie makes it clear just how important Carroll’s work was for his development as a writer:
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
“The Basketball Diaries,” by Jim Carroll. My dad gave it to me for my 15th birthday. He thought it was only about basketball. But it’s a book about heroin addiction, Catholic guilt, teenage sex, soul sickness and basketball. This book, above all others, is the reason I write.