Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jim Carroll: reviews of THE PETTING ZOO

The knives are out for Jim Carroll now that he is dead.  The two reviews I have read so far of Carroll's posthumous novel, THE PETTING ZOO, are beyond simply negative.  It is incomprehensible to me how one can be jealous of a dead man.  Both reviews of Carroll's novel are infested with obvious jealousy, and the most recent one, by Richard Hell (nee Meyers), in THE NY TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Dec. 12th) demonstrates only how in U.S. literary culture an unintelligent third-rate hustler is able to spew his shite into a major publication.  If you think this is harsh, note just one sentence from Hell's venomness diatribe.  "Carroll was a continuous generator of entertaining anecdotes featuring himself.  It beat working."  Or, as Hell writes in the "review": the book is "clumsy... the characters  seem like puppets and the sentences often lumpy...a mess."
The other review I have read, by Thomas Mallon in THE NEW YORKER, hides its venom more successfully, but in sentences like "this new book seems depressingly unnecessary" and in the closing paragraph: "...Carroll was at his desk, ransacking the exhausted imagination inside his vanishing body, surely knowing that its very real gifts had long been spent" one can see how this self-described "libertarian Republican"  who is proud of his photos with Cheney and Bush wishes he had one iota of Carroll's genius.  These resentful  "reviews" read much like Charles Simic's rant against Robert Creeley, after Creeley's death, published in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS. (Responses to which @ - 2007/10/17, and - June 28, 2008.)  
Patti Smith wrote a brief introduction to THE PETTING ZOO, and the blurb from her fine "note to the reader" excerpted on the back cover sets a different tone: "In the monastic seclusion of his room, Jim Carroll, with a prescience of his own mortality, reached out and drew this novel - his last work - from the nucleus of his mysticism and remembered experience." 

(N.B. 28 Dec. The most well-balanced and the fairest review I have read is by Susanna Sonnenberg in The San Francisco Chronicle, 26 Dec.)