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The Petting Zoo: A Novel (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 25. Oktober 2011


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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.

Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

1

All the trouble, of course, began with Velázquez. Billy Wolfram was running recklessly down the wide steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Craning his head backward, he saw the huge banner with the old master's self-portrait hanging from the limestone façade. Billy was certain those cocksure eyes were fixed directly on him. Mocking him. The slick leather soles of his new shoes slid beneath him, but he recovered before falling. He sped up, watching the yellow streaks of cabs passing down Fifth Avenue. Then he turned his eyes upward to the lights swinging over the traffic like hanging torsos, frozen on red. He heard snatches of conversations from men poised on the steps, smoking in tuxedos: "So I told her it looked more like a pie chart." "I don't get these old masters…; there's something so Catholic about them…;"

He took the last nine steps three at a time, then sped south on Fifth Avenue until he reached the entrance to Central Park. His legs were straining to outrun the images in his brain and find some equilibrium in speed. A doctor friend once told Billy that he was prone to "racing thoughts." He moved slower now on the path beside the dog run, sweating through the seat of his tuxedo trousers. He was thinking about the sound of traffic out of view, and how alien the body seemed, how senseless and capricious. Nauseous, he started shaking so badly he wanted to collapse into the grass and rest, anything to lose the images of Velázquez, every detail in his paintings, every brushstroke now stuck in loops of racing thoughts.

He wondered what kind of man the old master was. Billy knew little about Velázquez in any biographical sense. Staring up at the trees, he resolved to change that, vowing to thoroughly research the maestro's life by the next day.

Billy Wolfram fixed his eyes directly at the sky, which was filmy and disguised by the lights and melancholy of the city. The cause of his outrageous behavior that night wasn't buried in some biographer's footnotes, but in the paintings themselves. It was their spirituality and haunting arrogance that had attacked Billy. The characters in the paintings still shouted out, and the volume grew until their seventeenth century voices sent him dropping to his knees. As if genuflecting in prayer, he remained in the grass and the sound of peasants, cardinals, and children of the aristocracy continued to taunt him now for the shortcomings in his own work and his frivolous life.

Billy raised himself up, returned to the path, and moved on. He had no idea how much time had passed, but despite the knees of his pants being soaked, he felt calmer. Some of the lampposts gave off light, others had been snuffed out by vandals' stones flung through the opaque casing. It was the type of bare, low light that encouraged danger and disguise, but in his present state of mind, rejuvenated by his rest in the grass, Billy walked south on the pathway without qualms or fear.

Moving through one of those semicircular brick underpasses, the ground filled with puddles and the walls with moss no matter what the weather, Billy recognized that, in his circumstances, there was no better place for him to be. In these shadows, this part of the park had no reference to time or place. He passed a homeless old couple sleeping beneath strips of cardboard. They looked up at him, both toothless, the man with a patchy gray beard. They could have been from any era or country…; the French Revolution, resting after a day among the crowds gathered to watch the guillotine do its work, finding their only entertainment in its simplicity and precision.

He was speeding up, his body finally falling comfortably into place with his mind's delirious, disheveled drive. It's amazing and terrible, he thought, distinguishing the ironies out of control within you, and not being able to do a thing about them. What he needed was something to take his mind in another direction.

There was a fork in the path; Billy recognized that the turn to the left led to the zoo, remembering for no reason that the Latin word for "left" was "sinister." Within minutes, he was on a hill overlooking the zoo.

This was fate, he thought; this was exactly what he needed. Billy had loved zoos all his life. The Central Park Zoo was antiquated. It hadn't expanded its cages for the spacious simulacra of natural habitats that many modern zoos boasted. Nonetheless, there was a unique sensation walking around its minimal confines. It was the counterpoint of all those wild, exotic creatures existing right alongside the aloof residents of obscenely priced buildings on Fifth Avenue. Creatures strutting with such certainty a few short blocks away from the neurotic and trendy. This was what passed for irony in midtown Manhattan. It was all the irony people wanted in their lives, and it was all they could handle.

Halfway down the path leading into the main zoo's north entrance, Billy was confronted by an orange DayGlo sign, surrounded by a chain-link fence: CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS.

Billy circumnavigated the barricaded site by following the grass beside the carriage path leading directly to the petting zoo. He picked up a flyer and read that it was still operating despite the reconstruction of the larger zoo. The fact that it would be closed for the night did not bother him in the least. Billy knew that animals would provide the perfect diversion to redirect his obsessed thoughts, and nothing was going to stop him from that necessity. He stopped for a moment and looked down at what remained of the old zoo. The tall spiked fence that once enclosed the polar bear still stood, and the huge centerpiece, the pool for sea lions, was all drained and dry. It wasn't as deep as he had imagined when he watched the seals circling the gray water and diving down until they were out of view. Now there were just two homeless men, barely visible in the moon shadows.

Though most of the lion house had been leveled, some of the cages were still intact. Billy felt the ghostly presence of cheetahs restlessly pacing. Beyond the brick tier of the monkey house, which remained standing, he could see the petting zoo. He moved down the rocks toward it. He could feel the animal spirits diffusing the dilemma of Velázquez, but not completely. The streetlight from Fifth Avenue played on the red and yellow leaves of the trees, and in them he saw the canvases from the museum. If he stood before a painting long enough, Billy had always thought he could reconstruct every moment of its creation. He could tell which were the starting strokes, the defining cuts of a palette knife, the transcendent afterthoughts in the thickness of pigment. It was as if he were standing in the painter's studio with him. Yet, despite the strange, shocking quality that he had seen in the maestro's canvases tonight, recreated now in the trees, he couldn't pull off that feat…; not with Velázquez. He was blocked. "This is how it should be," he whispered to himself, before stumbling down the hill to the petting zoo.

There was a metal shutter closing off the entrance, secured at the base by a huge padlock. In his current state of mind, this didn't bother Billy. He walked around the side, where his only obstruction to the zoo grounds and the animals was an old black metal fence. Actually, at second glance, it looked rather imposing…; a row of ten-foot-high rods, sharpened at the top. There was an old elm to Billy's left, however, growing right up against the outside of the fence. It might as well have been a stairway leading to a slide into the zoo. Its limbs were low to the ground, extending outward into the zoo, only about ten feet from the pond, where a duck floated alone...


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12 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A Great Literary Achievement - Highly Recommended 17. November 2010
Von Gary Rinkerman - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
As with all of Jim Carroll's works - poems, prose and lyrics - The Petting Zoo is intensely personal, intimate, intelligent and unique. The novel's structure is generally linear, interspersed with vivid flashbacks and meditations that heighten the artistic, spiritual and psychological issues that confront and, eventually, overwhelm the protagonist, Billy Wolfram. Carroll's approach to manipulating time, imagery and memory evoke a cinematic approach and the novel is a perfect candidate for adaptation to film. The painting that set in motion Billy's ascent to fame and wealth is entitled "Trapped in Tidal Pool at Low Tide." As the novel progresses, the painting's title proves prophetic as Billy struggles to move beyond his feelings of isolation and entrapment. The language, some of which was honed by Carroll's readings to live audiences, often moves into the realm of poetry, evoking vivid images and emotions with precision and flowing cadences. Whether they are stark, surreal, humorous or raunchy, the scenes in the book are rendered by a writer who is clearly among the best. My feeling is that, throughout his career, Carroll's respect and genuine affection for his readers led him to deliver nothing less than classic and, at times, challenging literary works. The Petting Zoo is an exquisite addition to an already exquisite body of work. I highly recommend it.
8 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Jim Carroll's last novel! 12. November 2010
Von Jona Cannon - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Billy Wolfram is a brilliant yet haunted artist. He is obsessive/compulsive and quite depressed. His obsessive psyche forces him to find spirituality in his work as well as his life in an unhealthy way. From what I read about Jim Carroll on Wikipedia, this book is a shadow of his real life.

Jim Carroll was a talented writer, and I'm sure he would like to have edited this book a bit more before he regretfully passed on. I was both moved and disturbed by his compassion for people, and attitude toward the importance of sexuality in his life. The discussion of sex (both hetero and homo) although few and not gratuitous, were a bit too graphic for my taste.

This story also confirms my theory that all great artists whether writers, painters, sculpters, and so on, are not psychologically normal. The depth of their passion can be expressed on different mediums in a way that "normal" people lack the capcity for.

Rest in peace brother Carroll!
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A Poet's Look Back 12. März 2011
Von Jym Cherry - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
"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 ecstatic state the writing put me in.

I quoted Jim Morrison at the top of this review because that is how Jim Carroll lived his life, as an artist. He reportedly died at his desk writing until the end trying to get that "one more hour" to perform his art. You can look at "The Petting Zoo" as an attempt to perfect his life. I remember from his poems he wrote of wanting to be "pure" and the thought is the same as Morrison's to "perfect our lives" with "The Petting Zoo" being an attempt to find that purity or perfection, as if it were a literary ablution.

I wonder if Carroll was aware of his imminent mortality, a lot of "The Petting Zoo" seems valedictory. If anyone knows Carroll's earlier work they know he embraced and struggled with his Catholic upbringing, especially in light of the life he led. A lot of "The Petting Zoo" questions whether we're blind to our own problems that outsiders can easily see, faith and religion is one of the possible solutions he considered and continued to struggle with, the remnants of that early "Catholic Boy" faith remained with him longer than most and until the end.

I know a lot of people won't "get" this book, there are a few shortcomings like towards the end some of the dialogue all of the sudden comes at you in big chunks, maybe because Carroll died before he had a chance to polish it. There are discussions of aesthetics, I know that usually doesn't inspire the fiction reader towards a book but Carroll crafted this novel so well, the fluidity and lyricism of the writing is compelling. I hope people give this book a try. We've all played the game where we're asked if we had only one book, one movie, one anything on a deserted island what would that be? I think "The Petting Zoo" would be the book I choose.
4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Hard-Core Introspection 15. Januar 2011
Von Doctor Moss - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The last thing you'd expect from Jim Carroll is a light, breezy story, and this is definitely no light, breezy story. It's a raw story of Billy Wolfram, an artist, with numerous hard, personal dramas -- social awkwardness and reclusiveness, obsessive immersion in his work, traumatized and stunted sexual development, and the guidance of an immortal muse-like talking raven. This is an extremely introspective novel, like Carroll's journals, poetry, and music. It's hard to imagine anything could be more searingly autobiographical than those other, earlier works, but this is it.

It's not going to be to everybody's taste, too dark for most, and probably dismissed by some others as just another story of a "tortured artistic soul." But to me, it reads as authentic. Wolfram isn't Carroll in a straight-forward way, but Wolfram's inner life, his obsession and his difficulty in figuring out whether and how to feed it, must be Carroll's. It feels too real not to be.

I think it's a shame that Carroll may be best known for the movie version of Basketball Diaries -- that movie just seems a pale shadow of its original, much less this book. Carroll died while writing The Petting Zoo, so we won't hear again from him.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
So-So 26. Februar 2011
Von Donald S. Handy - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
It's not the beat of novels, nor is it the worst of novels. Some aspects of it are enticing, especially what amounts to the author's ruminations on various religions, as well as an overall existentialist viewpoint. However, the novel consists primarily of internal dialogue. There is so little of a plot as to be non-existant, and even less action or activity. The premise of the novel, an existential crisis, simply isn't plausible, and it has the worst, most unbelieveable, ending I think I've ever read. I am a longtime fan of Mr. Carroll, and wanted very much to like this book. It was a good first effort, and perhaps he could have learned from his mistakes in reviews of this work, and gone on to make better, more interesting novels. As it is, it's his swan-song, and some people may well take comfort in the last image in the book as a self-prophecy. However, I don't think anyone but fans of Jim Carroll are likely to find much to like about this book, which is a shame, as he had a lot to offer the reading public at large.
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