The Petting Zoo: A Novel

( 3 )

Overview

A moving, vividly rendered novel from the author of The Basketball Diaries

Suffused with Jim Carroll's humor and sharp wit, his delicate yet hallucinatory imagery, and his cool, sophisticated, streetsmart voice, The Petting Zoo is a frank, haunting examination of one artist's personal and spiritual quest. Billy Wolfram, an enigmatic thirty-eight- year-old star of the late -1980s New York art scene, views a show of Vel?zquez paintings and is so humbled by their spiritual power ...

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The Petting Zoo

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Overview

A moving, vividly rendered novel from the author of The Basketball Diaries

Suffused with Jim Carroll's humor and sharp wit, his delicate yet hallucinatory imagery, and his cool, sophisticated, streetsmart voice, The Petting Zoo is a frank, haunting examination of one artist's personal and spiritual quest. Billy Wolfram, an enigmatic thirty-eight- year-old star of the late -1980s New York art scene, views a show of Velázquez paintings and is so humbled by their spiritual power that he suffers an emotional breakdown and retreats to his Chelsea loft. In seclusion, he recalls the most emblematic moments and figures of his childhood and early career as he searches to recover the spark of inspiration in his own work and life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Basketball Diaries author Carroll's slightly rough posthumous novel about a famous painter's breakdown begins as painter Billy Wolfram has a psychotic episode, wanders about the Central Park petting zoo, threatens strangers, and is picked up and committed to a mental hospital for observation. Upon his release, Billy returns home and goes into "reclusion," brooding on events in his past (such as his mother's death), watching old TV shows, and receiving visits from a Central Park zoo raven who talks to Billy about the flood (the raven was on Noah's ark), art, and the emptiness in Billy's life. Other than his assistant, Marta, Billy's only real visitor is his childhood friend, rock star Denny, leaving him plenty of time for introspection that leads back to Kennedy's assassination, which coincided with Billy's mother catching him masturbating. Since then, Billy has frozen out his sexual feelings, and, as it turns out, Marta would love to thaw them. Although Carroll's prose is uneven--clever and profound sentences jostle awkwardly with lumbering, bathos-soaked platitudes--and the narrative tension is rather slack, this is a heartfelt portrait of a New York original by a New York original. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143120094
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/25/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 937,563
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Carroll (1949-2009) was the author of two acclaimed memoirs, The Basketball Diaries-a bestseller that was adapted as a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 1995-and Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries 1971-1973, as well as several collections of poetry.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 14, 2011

    A Poets Look Back

    "O great creator of being/grant us one more hour to/perform our art/& perfect our lives" An American Prayer, Jim Morrison

    "The Petting Zoo" is a poet's look back, not only at his life, but the art, celebrity, and the ideas that guided him. "The Petting Zoo" was Jim Carroll's first and last novel, he died shortly before putting the finishing edits on the book. For those fans of Carroll's or books with a poetic bent, "The Petting Zoo" is a must read.

    Most people are aware of Jim Carroll through "The Basketball Diaries" either the 1978 book or the 1995 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Carroll also fronted The Jim Carroll Band which released one album "Catholic Boy." But Carroll was foremost a poet, and had his poems published and lauded while still in his teens ("Living at the Movies"). I've been a fan of Carroll's work since The Jim Carroll Band, and have read most of his poetry. When I ran across "The Petting Zoo" I was a little hesitant because sometimes poets don't come across well when they move to the novel. The esoteric ideas that work well in poems just don't translate that well to fiction. But I over came that objection and let curiosity and my liking of Carroll's earlier work to sway me, and I bought it, and I was glad I did.

    "The Petting Zoo" is an artists look backwards at his life. Carroll's character surrogate is Billy Wolfram a New York painter who at mid-life is suffering a crisis of just about every order from insecurity in his work, to women problems, and even the lack of spirituality in his work. During an opening, Billy is driven into the New York night by these newly manifested demons where he meets a crow that talks to him. Billy is then taken to a mental hospital for observation. Upon his release Billy reassess every area of his life with the occasional guiding insight from the crow, a crow that is older and has a much more complicated relationship with humanity than it at first seems. "The Petting Zoo" isn't "The Basketball Diaries" the middle aged years. If anything, it reminds me more of Patti Smith's "Just Kids," it has the same feel. Maybe that shouldn't be too surprising, New York as a locale is a highlight of both books, as well the artists looking back at their careers, Smith non-fictionally at the early, optimistic years she shared with Robert Mapplethorpe, and Carroll at the whole career of an artist and aspects of a career that Smith in "Just Kids" would have considered their wildest dreams.

    Writers have cast themselves or their fictional alter egos as artists before, Hemingway and Vonnegut to name a couple. It seems a good simile for a writer especially a poet to identify with. Poets have to use words thickly like the painter's colors, words thick with meaning, and Carroll doesn't waste any words, each seems carefully chosen. I usually read fast but I found myself slowing down to enjoy the lyricism of Carroll's writing, enjoying the sensation of Carroll's words soaking in like a drug. There's almost a tactile feel to Carroll's imagery. He remembers sensations and translates that sense memory very ably to the reader. I rarely highlight passages in books or make annotations, but I found myself doing both throughout the book, finding passages either strikingly insightful or poetic. Such as the story of why a baby cries upon being born is mesmerizing and a beautiful perspective. This is a book I didn't want to finish, not because it was bad but because I wanted to savor, to maximize the ecst

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  • Posted November 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The last word.

    A touching reinterpretation of the life and observations of the late Jim Carroll, as portrayed through the fictional character Billy Wolfrom. The spirit of all life's influences on Carroll are woven throughout, and communicated with his usual rich use of the English language, mixed with his own New York vernacular. This final work, was in his hands to the day of his passing; leaving us here alone to ponder the meaning of life through his words.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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