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The Petting Zoo

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  639 ratings  ·  117 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.
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 4th 2010 by Viking
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Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 an fragile artist dealing with celebrity and the difficulty of forming relationships with those outside this solitary mindset.

A rather dark novel sprinkled with many scenes of hu
Oct 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2010
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jason Pettus
Nov 05, 2010 rated it liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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
Carissa Weibley
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jim Cherry
Mar 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
“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
Apr 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed

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 Yorker and inspiring a fervent readership. The cult classic was followed almost ten years later by Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries, 1971-1973, wh
Rachel Perry
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was ok he froze to death? After all of that, he couldn’t be bothered to put in a sweater?
Aug 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011, art, books-i-own, fiction
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
Nov 18, 2011 marked it as to-read
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
Ted Prokash
Dec 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
Yeesh. I'm going to just go ahead and review this particular book and not comment on anything else the author might have done musically or poetically, etc. Okay? Okay.

The story is incredibly cliched. The writing reminds me of the first shit I did, when I was afraid of leaving out a single adjective known to the English language, just in case I might never be allowed to write again. The token metaphysical metaphors don't really add anything or achieve any poignancy. Carrol, who was famous for bei
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jona Cannon
Aug 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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
Nov 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, I didn't read it, I heard it. It was in my HOOPLA cue for a long time, and I finally finished listening to it, just 30 minutes before it would automatically return. I simply kept forgetting it was there.

I didn't even know this novel was out there, or it would be in my library. Given reviews I've read, I wasn't sure I wanted to run out and purchase a copy of my own, if it was so poorly written. If I ever saw it, I would've picked it up, regardless. Now that I've listened to it, I gotta hav
Mar 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 25, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
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!)
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 25, 2010 rated it liked it
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...
Edward Sullivan
Jun 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Carroll's only novel published posthumously. There are some great moments in this somewhat autobiographical story when Carroll's characteristic humor and wit shine through. He died before completing the final revisions which may account for why the last third of narrative seems a bit muddled.
Go MIche
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
I think Patti Smith enjoyed this book more than I did.
Annika L
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Billy Wolfram was known for his art starting at a very young age simply because the right person showed up at the wrong art exhibit. However, later in his career, things change for him when he sees Velázquez’s paintings and goes through an emotional breakdown due to the art’s spiritual power. He then lives secluded in his apartment looking for inspiration to apply to his own work and the book takes us back to many of Billy’s memories that have strongly influenced his problems today. We also see ...more
Doctor Moss
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
John Arnold
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book entertaining and enjoyable. Carroll writes outstanding descriptive sentences. Someone complained about his over-use of adjectives, but I liked them. This is part of his style, I guess. Someone else mentioned the author's wit and humor. Those aspects of the book are key to its enjoyment. Carroll's throwing in arcane vocabulary was appreciated, and gave me a bunch of words to look up. Evidently the author is a gourmet of words.
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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.
“Back then, Billy imagined that drops of rain were unanswered prayers falling back to earth.” 20 likes
“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.” 14 likes
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