i went to jim carroll’s spoken word performance a few months before he died. it was strange. the room was full of recliners and over stuffed chairs. there was delicious food and ice cream everywhere. if i counted correctly there were five or six good beers on tap.
during that performance, carroll read some poems. talked about new york and rambled like a madman. he was jittery and on edge until he poked his head behind a tattered notebook. then a confidence, a pride seemed to take over and the words flowed and flowed and flowed.
he spent a good portion of the night reading from his then unfinished novel The Petting Zoo. it’s the story of a middle-aged painter trying to come to terms with his own shortcomings. i remember carroll talking up each scene before he began to read, almost as if he needed to convince us to listen.
the story is fascinating. there are twists and shifts in perspective that my words can’t explain. i know that i first read his work when i was in the 10th grade. i was floored then, and can still appreciate it now. i also know that it’s been quite some time since i was this excited to read a book.
The Petting Zoo is out on November 4th.