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The Petting Zoo

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3.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  517 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews

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

When poet, musician, and diarist Jim Carroll died in September 2009, he was putting the finishing touches on a potent work of fiction. The Petting Zoo tells the story of Billy Wolfram, an enigmatic thirty- eight-year-old artist who has become a hot star in the late-1980s New York art scene. A

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Audiobook, 0 pages
Published November 4th 2010 by Tantor Media, Inc.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,576)
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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

So before anything else, let me make it clear that I'm as big a fan of Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries as anyone else, his 1978 memoir about growing up in '60s Manhattan as a working-class sports star, sex fiend and teenage heroin addict, which eventually led to the punk-era Jim Carroll Band that achi
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g026r
Oct 28, 2010 g026r rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Cherry
Mar 25, 2011 Jim Cherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
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Carissa Weibley
Sep 15, 2011 Carissa Weibley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I happened to be in a Borders just the other week, and was surprised to see that despite the dramatically reduced clearance prices, this book was still on the shelves. I had read an article about it back in late 2010 in the village voice and had subsequently forgotten to add it to my "to read" list.

The book was in draft form when Jim Carroll passed away in 2009. Cassie Carter, a literary scholar, Rosemary Carroll, former wife and Paul Slovak, editor, decided to publish the book with minimal cha
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Anna
Nov 28, 2010 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this novel out from the public library, looking for an existential self-exploration akin to "Nausea" or "The Stranger" but written in modern times by an American author. In no way was I let down. I found highly resonant (and heartbreaking) Carroll's depiction of the ambivalence one experiences when coping with sudden, seemingly insurmountable self-revelation and the consequent tsunami of malaise. Swim, float, or drown? It depends on the day, hour, or moment, on whether it seems to be wo ...more
Denis
Feb 08, 2014 Denis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardcover, first
This novel by poet Jim Carroll was just as I'd hoped it would be. A real novel, rather than an edgy post-modern artsy gimmicky word-play mish-mash of New York junk drenched delusion, as I feared it might be. It is introspective story telling. The story of the troubled mind of an outstanding and gifted artist. It's about the fragility of an artist's mind when dealing with celebrity and the difficulty of forming relationships with those outside this solitary mindset.

And is the raven friend or foe?
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serprex
Jun 21, 2016 serprex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read. Didn't change the way I think like good books tend to do, but that may be my not being the intended audience
Scott
Apr 16, 2015 Scott rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Some questions...

Why is every person a walking thesaurus? Why do several different types of people consistently use the same words and turns of phrase ("propitious" turns up A LOT)? Why do the characters speak as if they are narrating their actions? (One character says that she went up to a bar and sat "slumpingly" on a stool. Really? "Slumpingly"? And in conversation?) Why does it sound like the dialogue has been translated into English via a third-rate online translator? Why, in a book about a
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Denise
Jun 12, 2013 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Denise by: Denis Dube
Jim Carroll is an artist I've followed for years now. This book was not a disappointment. The writing is true to his style - artful and moody and full of wit. A good story and endearing characters. All with NY flavour. I especially enjoyed the Billy's-stay-on-the-psych-ward scenes.
Carol
Aug 29, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A young artist runs from his exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York City , only to find himself in the city zoo at the petting zoo location. It is nigh time and the zoo is closed ,but Billy climbs the fence and goes to the Noah's Ark exhibit of the petting zoo. He tries to calm down after leaving the art show abruptly. On leaving the ark ,Billy hits his head and gets quiet a gash. A raven speaks to him and Billy is off and running. The raven tells him where a ladder is so he ca ...more
Silver
Oct 19, 2010 Silver rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
A masterfully told story and a work of true brilliance. It is clever, witty, humorous, and heartbreaking, taking the reader onto a rather unique journey into the mind of an artist as he is forced into enraging upon an inward journey to rediscover himself.

It all began on one fateful night when Bill Wolfram, a golden boy of the modern art world, who had everything an artist could ever dream of has a rather shocking encounter with the works of famous painter Velazquez. He is suddenly thrown into d
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Jona Cannon
I won this book from goodreads firstreads! 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 h
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Pauline
Nov 18, 2011 Pauline marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
A moving, vividly rendered novel from the late author of The Basketball Diaries.

When poet, musician, and diarist Jim Carroll died in September 2009, he was putting the finishing touches on a potent work of fiction. The Petting Zoo tells the story of Billy Wolfram, an enigmatic thirty- eight-year-old artist who has become a hot star in the late-1980s New York art scene. As the novel opens, Billy, after viewing a show of Velázquez paintings, is so humbled and awed by their spiritual power that he
...more
Claire
Aug 02, 2011 Claire rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
http://www.tkreviews.org/#/the-pettin...

When Jim Carroll passed away on September 11, 2009, New York lost a poet and punk rocker who was famous for writing The Basketball Diaries, an autobiographical account of his drug habits as a teenage basketball star. Carroll’s diary entries were published in book form in 1978 after first appearing in The New Yorkerand inspiring a fervent readership. The cult classic was followed almost ten years later by Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries, 1971-1973,whic
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Hannah
Dec 05, 2011 Hannah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
I would call this book self-indulgent- maybe even masturbatory- if it were clear that Carroll actually wanted it published in this form. Because we don't know what more he would have done with it (abandoned it, burned it, drop idly edited it) had he lived longer, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. The blame really lies with his editors- the people who thought this was a work of fiction worthy of publication. To be clear, in my opinion, it's really not. It's hard for me to imagine this com ...more
Ben
Dec 23, 2010 Ben rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Considering this book wasn't yet finished when JC died, in Inwood, two years ago, I'm going to give some of the rough edges and lack of polish the benefit of the doubt and not hold it against the book as a whole. But that still doesn't save the leaden, wooden dialogue throughout. Or the cardboard thin characters with barely explained motivations. Or the contrived ending.

But despite these things, I found myself enraptured by what's really a series of spinning monologues - digressions and investi
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Diana
Jun 06, 2014 Diana rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014-reads
The fact that the only character worth a damn in this book is not the central one (famous, extraordinary, genius, famous, omg-he's-amazing painter Billy Wolfram) but the talking raven should be indicative of how lousy this book truly is. I wish the talking raven had his own book. It would have been awesome. Btw, the two stars should both be awarded to the talking raven and ONLY THE TALKING RAVEN.

***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT, depending on how you define "spoiler"***
Also, let's put a moratorium on th
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Marisa
Sep 01, 2010 Marisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I finished this a few days ago, but wasn't sure what I wanted to say. I liked the story. It starts with Billy Wolfram running out of an art exhibit and ending up in the psych ward of a hospital. It goes from the present back in time to explain the thinngs that happened to him that made him the way he is.
While I did like the book I felt like there was no climax. It just went along until it ended and I did not like that.
ingrid
Mar 16, 2011 ingrid rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Actually I did not finish it. This is the 3rd book in a row I have slammed shut! It is a troubled artist's inner monologue, running on and on and on.... I found myself saying to myself, "Who cares!" (Another reviewer said it was a modern existentialist book a la The Stranger. Well, it just didn't do anything for me!)
Surfing Moose
Apr 17, 2011 Surfing Moose rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
First quarter was good and interesting but lost interest half way through and lasted another 50 pages. Just stopped caring about the characters and found them pretentious. Probably would have been a different novel if Jim Carroll had the opportunity to finish it.
PanzerBunny
almost don't want to read it as a last work. however, i do envy some of you who already got through a copy -mind you, Free too boot! Nice...

And Jim, these days I miss you more than all the others
And I salute you brother...
Toni
Dec 02, 2015 Toni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Toni by: Patti Smith
Interesting premise, but at times difficult to endure as it gives first hand insight to bipolar disorder. The reader is rooting for the protagonist, but is betrayed over and over by his unusual decisions creating his downward spiral. There are a few lines in it of incredible insight, but I did not write those down. So, shortly after reading them the action following driven by psychosis, the gems of wisdom escaped into a blur cleverly making the reader feel like they have been sucked into the whi ...more
China Bialos
I was so, so eager to read this one when I found out (just after Jim Carroll's death) that it existed. Basketball Diaries and Forced Entries were brilliantly written, no overthinking involved in the writing. So it was a great big disappointment to read The Petting Zoo and - as some reviewers have said - find myself getting bored, wanting to get on with it. I don't doubt that it would've benefited from another edit, and while I did find the story cohesive, it was indeed somewhat masturbatory at t ...more
Barry Hammond
I've been a fan of Jim Carroll since "The Basketball Diaries," and through all the subsequent books of poetry and prose, my sole regret being there's not more of it. He seems both the quintessential Irish Catholic boy and complete New Yorker. I've always been both moved and laughed out loud at his writing. Sad to think this is the last we'll get from him since he died in 2009. Since I was out of the book business for a little over three years, I'm just catching up on it now but thoroughly enjoye ...more
Michelle
I'll admit it, sometimes I do judge a book by its cover. So, I spent a month noticing the strikingly sketchy raven on the cover of The Petting Zoo by the late Jim Carroll before I got around to picking it up and reading it. This book has all the hallmarks of a winner for Michelle, psychological baggage, an intriguing artist protagonist, and even some mystical presence to it, but as much as I found myself to the story of Billy Wolfram, famous young neo-surreal painter and basket-case, I found mys ...more
Clarice
Feb 12, 2011 Clarice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read
In the beginning I was LOVING this book. I loved Jim Carrol's "voice" and the main character. The writing seemed truly inspired, and reading this book was a very enjoyable experience - at first. I felt like I was inside the head of an artistic genius and found the perspective fascinating.

The pace was slow and steady and seemed to be building to something wonderful, then the writing suddenly began to meander. It is almost certainly due to the fact that Jim Carroll died before doing a final edit.
...more
Ana
Dec 06, 2010 Ana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susie Sentevski
The disorganization and unpolished passages of this book are distracting, for sure, but they are also expected considering, as other reviewers have noted, that this work was in draft form when Carroll passed away. Conceptually, the book is wonderful - a deep look at the relationship between the creative process and the broken mind. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Carroll executed the project with his characteristic, imagery-heavy finesse. With a collection of the most verbose characters I believe I' ...more
Rachel
Apr 03, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is totally unique. It is smart, rambling and a real NY story. I did not know anything at all about the author whose obit I just read from the NY Times. I can see now that it is very autobiographical. It is the story of NYC in the 70s and 80s through the eyes of Billy Wolfram a prodigy painter who becomes very successful at an early age but has very deep issues and finds it difficult to form attachments. I may go back now and read his much earlier work The Basketball Diaries.
Oscar
Apr 02, 2015 Oscar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt like there was a little unfinished business, but over all it was good. I wasn't into art, but something about this book, made me go and pick up an art book. I've never been moved by anything in my life. The fact that Billy, lost his mind from just a moment after seeing a piece of art, really spoke to volumes to me. I one day want to be moved, or pushed into insanity one day.
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James Dennis "Jim" Carroll was an author, poet, autobiographer, and punk musician. Carroll was best known for his 1978 autobiographical work The Basketball Diaries, which was made into the 1995 film of the same name with Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll.
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“On a whim, he stopped and bought a watch from a sidewalk vendor. Normally, Billy could not abide keeping time, especially when it was attached to one’s body. Time was like a relentlessly needy lapdog one had to haul around. It barked too much and had no sense of loyalty.” 12 likes
“Back then, Billy imagined that drops of rain were unanswered prayers falling back to earth.” 12 likes
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