Read The Petting Zoo by Jim Carroll Online


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 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 suffers an emotional breakdown and withdraws to his Chelsea loft. In seclusion, Billy searches for the divine spark in his own work and life. Carroll's novel moves back and forth in time to present emblematic moments from Billy's life (his Irish Catholic upbringing, his teenage escapades, his evolution as an artist and meteoric rise to fame) and sharply etched portraits of the characters who mattered most to him, including his childhood friend Denny MacAbee, now a famous rock musician; his mentor, the unforgettable art dealer Max Bernbaum; and one extraordinary black bird. Marked by Carroll's sharp wit, hallucinatory imagery, and street-smart style, The Petting Zoo is a frank, haunting examination of one artist's personal and professional struggles....

Title : The Petting Zoo
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780670022182
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Petting Zoo Reviews

  • Denis
    2019-01-17 17:11

    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 humour.And is the raven friend or foe?A real treasure. So glad it was completed and published. Unfortunately, it's a real shame that Jim Carroll never lived to see the book published.

  • g026r
    2019-01-15 18:58

    Ever since I put my name in to receive books for review, I've been metaphorically dreading this, the bad book. There have been books I've received that I disliked, but they were never objectively bad books; they might not be good books, or they just might not be for me, but I'd never have actually called them bad. In the end though, there's no way of escaping it: The Petting Zoo is simply not worth reading.So, a quick plot summary: Billy Wolfram, in his 30s, is a genius painter who has a breakdown at an art show, winds up in a mental ward, and when released tries to figure out just what in his past is troubling him so that he can go back to being a genius painter. Oh yes, and this genius painter is occasionally visited by a mystical talking raven who has been assigned to the genius painter in order to impart cryptic wisdom.Did you get tired of me telling you that Billy Wolfram is a genius painter? If so, then stay away from this book, because if there's one thing it likes doing is telling you how brilliant Billy is, either via the narrator or with faceless characters popping in just long enough to congratulate Billy on being such an artistic genius.But that's a bit of a cheap shot. The old adage is "show, don't tell", and in text it's a bit difficult to show a painting. A slightly more skilled writer, however, would have made the telling less obvious or at least less abrasive, and that may have had happened had Carroll lived to finish revising the novel. So some of the roughness of the prose, perhaps, could be explained away by that.On the other hand, the work's numerous other flaws leave me doubting. For starters, there's Carroll's love of adjectives — Billy's "precocious intelligence" is mentioned multiple times, and his "buoyant imagination" makes at least one appearance — leaves the text choppy, disrupting what little flow the turgid prose has. It also results in all the characters becoming personality-free blanks who all speak, generally at length, in the exact same style, which also happens to be the same style as the third-person narration. To illustrate this point: towards the end, in the middle of a pair of lengthy speeches, my eyes missed the spot where the switch between speakers was mentioned. It wasn't until the end of the second speech, when it was indicated that the original speaker then responded, that I realized that it was actually a dialogue as opposed to the lengthy monologue that I had assumed. All of which means that really, whenever the characters (or the narrator) stop to explain something at length, the novel comes off as a bit of an overly long monologue. And expect it to be explained at length, because it's almost as if Carroll is so scared of you not getting it that he's afraid to let anything pass without pedantically explaining every little detail of whatever the theory being expounded or motivation for a character's action is.All of the above is compounded by one final flaw: the plot is nothing but clichés. From the mental asylum scenes, wherein Billy meets various quirky inmates who mutter cryptic yet profound insights, to the final scene where, while he's dying, the mystic raven once again appears to explain everything in detail, it's a never-ending sequence of clichéd scenes, characters, and events.If I hadn't been sent the book for free I'd have said that I wasted my money. Instead, I just feel that I wasted my time.

  • Jason Pettus
    2018-12-30 18:58

    (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 achieved the same kind of minor notoriety as, say, his buddy Patti Smith; so I was as excited as anyone else when hearing that Carroll had been tinkering around with a new novel for the last decade of his life (he died in 2009), during a period where we now know that he was essentially turning slowly into a mentally unstable recluse, and that this novel was finally being published posthumously as The Petting Zoo, including an introductory note by Smith herself. But alas, instead of this being Carroll's graceful swan song, it's more of a rambling, inconsequential footnote to what was admittedly a remarkable career, a wisp of a story that's billed as "autobiographical" but that in reality concerns an only vaguely developed middle-aged visual artist at the end of the 1980s, a painter who's much more famous with the general public than any fine-art painter could've actually been by the end of Postmodernism, which already gives the story a kind of unrealistic urban fairytale vibe, and then is filled with the kind of ten-page fluffy philosophical digressions you would exactly expect from an author who was by then sometimes going entire weeks without human contact, growing an unruly Howard Hughes beard and puttering around the same semi-squalid apartment building where he literally grew up. It's not exactly a surprise that an aging artist's last project would pack more of a whimper instead of a bang, but it's nonetheless worth noting when it's true, with The Petting Zoo being much more for completists and hardcore fans than for a general reading audience. It should be kept in mind before picking it up yourself. Out of 10: 7.7

  • Carissa Weibley
    2018-12-30 14:21

    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 changes. The underlying character of the book draws from Jim Carroll's roots in the early 80s NYC scene. Jim Carroll's friend Patti Smith provides a forward in the book, and I was glad to have read her memoir Just Kids prior to The Petting Zoo. The story is captivating, and some of the exchanges between the characters are really beautiful. One of my favorite passages is when Billy, the protagonist, poses the question to his best friend Denny "are spirit and character one and the same?"Denny replies by referencing specific direct experiences with music and poetry, and then reasons "That's why I think spirit and character may be the same. Art can tap something beyond intellect, but your character determines if you will receive it through your inner register, through the intuitive wisdom of an open heart, through your instincts, nerve, and heart."This novel will speak to anyone who has experienced an artistic quest, or has had an interest in that fine line between genius and madness. I would highly recommend adding this to your "to read" list for this fall.Village Voice article is available at

  • Jim Cherry
    2019-01-17 15:58

    “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.

  • Scott
    2019-01-11 16:20

    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 genius artist, is only one of his paintings described in any detail? How did I manage to finish reading this?I thought at first that something David Lynchian was going on: the stilted dialogue, the near-misuse of certain words, the overblown, warped-stereotype characters. But I soon realized that I was giving too much credit. Unfortunately, this is just a terribly written book.I recall appreciating, and for the most part enjoying, The Basketball Diaries; this book has severely tainted that memory.

  • Anna
    2019-01-04 18:10

    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 working or not (and sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't). I also enjoyed Carroll's knack for detail, how he seemed to know exactly what information would convey volumes more than the number of written words. I was delighted with this find.

  • Denise
    2018-12-31 15:03

    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.

  • serprex
    2019-01-19 16:11

    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

  • Claire
    2019-01-14 14:03 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, which was less of a collection of journals than a first person series of narratives culminating in Carroll’s escape from New York to California to kick his drug habit. As a result of these publications, the young Jim Carroll catapulted to fame, and along the way he befriended Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, Ted Berrigan, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg and others in the creative set in New York at the time. As Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote in a review of Forced Entries in The New York Times, “the two diaries remain similar in their quest for extreme sensations and their eagerness to shock the reader . . . . At the very least, they should serve further to demystify the usefulness of drugs to writers.” After returning to New York from California, Carroll had stopped using drugs, and began work on The Petting Zoo (Viking, $25.95), the highly anticipated novel that existed in manuscript form at the time of his death (Carroll had been doing readings from this novel since 1991). The version that Carroll left behind was subsequently edited and published through a joint effort by his agent, editor, and executor. The result is the story of Billy Wolfram, an artist who suffers a mental breakdown at an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after viewing a painting by Valázquez, and struggles throughout the narrative for a sense of artistic and spiritual redemption. Where Jim Carroll’s first two books were shocking and racy, this new novel is more introspective and personal. Considering the autobiographical nature of the first books, it is difficult to not draw connections between the author and the main character in the latest book—both are artists, Irish Catholic, originally from Manhattan, college dropouts, and conflicted regarding their sexuality. The Irish Catholic sensibility of guilt and repressed sexuality plagues Billy after his mother walks in on him masturbating as a teenager the day Kennedy is assassinated. Billy is 38 years old and is still a virgin as a consequence of this trauma. The Catholic influence also colors a number of incidents in the book: at the beginning, Billy compares the asylum where he stays for a week to recover from his breakdown to a monastery, and he identifies with Saint Francis by way of his special connection to animals (which corresponds to the title). This connection is so special that Billy is visited in his dreams and in real life by the original raven from Noah’s ark. The bird gives him advice and attempts to explain his personal crisis that was exacerbated by viewing the Valázquez paintings: “His paintings possessed such a flawless technique that he created a religion out of his art. You too have tried to reach God through art.” The raven is some sort of attempt at magical realism, but in the book, its presence comes across as amateurish and silly. In addition to analysis of his art’s relationship to the spirit, Bill also explores how his unusual sexual history (or lack thereof) is related to his mental crisis. Billy believes that his artistic genius and creativity is heightened by his impotence, but he also strives to break through his sexual inhibitions. The drama in the novel involves his ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of relationships with men and women, but first sexual experience with a woman seem to be a breakthrough in his creative block.Carroll borrows from James Joyce’s conception of “paralysis” and “epiphany” in passages in the book about his main character’s creative process. Billy’s inner reflection and description addresses his personal “paralysis”: “Perhaps the trauma roused by Valázquez’s work at the Met was a curtain raised on society itself. It was just as likely that it was not Billy and his peers, but this society and this age, with its imperturbable, superficial ideologies, that was deprived of the spiritual. Perhaps the upheaval of these very thoughts—always there, but suppressed—was now what was paralyzing him.” Here, Billy’s reflection of the transformative moment he experienced at the museum involves major revelations of the limits of human ability. He also seems to feel a desire for a deeper and more profound sense of the spiritual in a world that has become oppressive and superficial to him. Billy’s thoughts in the novel are perhaps related to the author’s own feelings about his mortality before he died.As an artist, Billy describes his creative process with another Joycean idea, “epiphany,” which Carroll seems to think is related to an intuitive sense of understanding and empathy: “[Billy| put his faith in a succinct phrase he had read in a book by Henry Miller, which resonated precisely with his personal aesthetic experience. It defined this knowledge of the heart so tersely and evocatively that it became a key part of Billy’s aesthetic vocabulary. Miller called it the ‘inner register.’”While Billy doesn’t engage in drug use in this novel (“Billy dreaded losing control and—even for an instant—severing connections with the human spirit and intuitive consciousness that piloted him.”) he does indulge in enough solipsistic navel gazing to make for tedious reading. More a novel of ideas rather than plot driven action, the long soliloquies and diatribes from the raven and other characters in the book seemed jumbled together and were not successful as a narrative structure.Even Billy’s own best friend Denny gets annoyed with him: “Denny was fed up with Billy’s sulking around the loft feeling sorry for himself and couldn’t bear to hear another word about the meltdown at the museum or more horror stories from the mental ward.” Other characters in the book—Billy’s mentor and art dealer Max or Marta, Billy’s housekeeper—are more interesting and complex, and I think the novel could have benefitted from further editing and character development. Jim Carroll led a fascinating life, and his great love for New York always comes through in his writing. But because it lacks the edgy sharpness and pace of his previous writing, The Petting Zoo was ultimately disappointing, which was probably inevitable based on the hype.

  • Carol
    2019-01-08 12:17

    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 can climb back out. Billy stumbles along the streets of New York in a daze and finally winds up in the back of a police car on his way to the mental hospital. He meets a whole different group of people.Billy has a break down after leaving the hospital and can not finish paintings he needs to do for another show. The raven periodically comes to visit Billy with sage wisdom . This book is psychological , metaphysical and spiritual . You decide how you wish to approach this book. Carroll is a master of the lyrical and poetry of words. Some phrases are so beautiful it hurts. The book I have is a proof copy , I hope the editors do a little editing along the lines of the length of the book, some sections you get lost, but Carroll is soon back on track. I liked the book a lot and I hope it does well for his estate as he died before this book was published. The only fault I found was pages fell out of my copy, which is unfortunate as I wanted to pass it along to others.

  • Michelle
    2019-01-01 13:20

    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 myself being drawn out of it equally as much.This is an interesting book. It is not an arduous read, either, so I would recommend it. It just features a great many huge blocks of dialogues, lectures really, on art, on life, on regret that often take on a didactic tone that I don't particularly enjoy in books. At the same time, I enjoyed the content of these discussions--the art historical aspects drew me in. So what exactly is my problem? Perhaps Billy Wolfram's treatises reminded me too much of my own brother, who is a painter. No, brother is not suffering a mental breakdown on account of the sublimely spiritual paintings of Diego Velasquez, but he can be a little long-winded, especially on the topic of visual arts. So is Jim Carroll's book, and he died perhaps before he could edit it down a bit.

  • Pauline
    2019-01-14 13:27

    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 suffers an emotional breakdown and withdraws to his Chelsea loft. In seclusion, Billy searches for the divine spark in his own work and life. Carroll's novel moves back and forth in time to present emblematic moments from Billy's life (his Irish Catholic upbringing, his teenage escapades, his evolution as an artist and meteoric rise to fame) and sharply etched portraits of the characters who mattered most to him, including his childhood friend Denny MacAbee, now a famous rock musician; his mentor, the unforgettable art dealer Max Bernbaum; and one extraordinary black bird. Marked by Carroll's sharp wit, hallucinatory imagery, and street-smart style, The Petting Zoo is a frank, haunting examination of one artist's personal and professional struggles

  • Silver
    2019-01-05 11:00

    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 doubt and looses faith in himself as an artist and retreats into himself. Secluding himself within his studio Billy begins to search back into his past and the monument events in his life which have shaped him as an artist, and as a person, as well as brought him to this devastating moment. During this period of his seclusion he is periodically visited by a dream-like vision of a wisecracking, yet irresistibly charming raven who acts the part of spiritual guide to try and help Billy upon his quest. The portrayal of the raven is one of the most endearing and ingenious parts of this book, in which it seems that Carroll fuses both traditional raven folklore, with a touch of Poe's "The Raven."A stunning book!

  • Jona Cannon
    2019-01-13 14:21

    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 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!

  • Ana
    2018-12-30 18:09

    I love reading philosophy and spirituality, and I have been a fan of Jim Carroll since I read The Basketball Diaries in 1980. This book was a natural read for me, and I recommend this book to anyone else who is similarly situated.There are some truly amazing moments in this novel: the taxi driver's monologue; the raven's soliloquy in which he reveals himself; and (although other's have criticized it) the last chapter. These are the moments which will stay with me, and as a reader, were most rewarding. Jim taught me something about myself while engaged with this novel. A window was opened.What didn't work very well for me was the dialogue between characters. The flow more often was stilted - characters speaking in blocks of sentences, rather than the give and take usually observed in everyday conversation.I know it was a labor of love to finalize and publish this book. I give massive kudos to everyone involved in that endeavor. However, I understand why some readers were disappointed with The Petting Zoo, as it does feel unfinished.

  • Solita
    2018-12-28 11:01

    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 have it, so I can actually read the words. Really take them in. I am going to my local book store asap and see if they have it, and if not, I will have them order it for me. It's possible the novel could've used a bit of editing, but over all, I think it's brilliant. One review I read thought the raven a bit much. I don't. At all. This novel is about being an artist, on an organic level. It blew my mind.

  • Hannah
    2019-01-10 12:09

    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 coming across the desk of any editor without Carroll's name attached, and not being tossed in the reject pile immediately. Between the magic realism, the flat, uneasy dialogue, the long and exhaustingly overwrought soliloquies, and the totally unlikeable characters, I rally had to force myself through this book and only got about halfway through before the thought of reading one more paragraph was so painful I couldn't stand it. Which is a real shame, since I truly love Carroll's prose.

  • Ben
    2018-12-28 14:04

    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 investigations of topics as diverse as Sumerian mythology or the nature of art or the meaning of celebrity or the existence of God. There are real insights here - tremendous observations - wonderful rambles. As JC biographical fodder, there are interesting tidbits, but even beyond that there's something he was shooting for here - and though it falls short it's a captivating mystifying read set in a gritty, real, topsy-turvy New York.

  • Marisa
    2019-01-22 18:58

    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
    2019-01-18 11:57

    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!)

  • Oscar
    2019-01-02 13:20

    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.

  • PanzerBunny
    2019-01-08 14:21

    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 othersAnd I salute you brother...

  • Edward Sullivan
    2019-01-20 14:05

    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
    2019-01-11 16:25

    I think Patti Smith enjoyed this book more than I did.

  • Annika L
    2018-12-23 11:59

    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 all the people who have had a significant influence on his life, including, strangely, a raven that guided Billy through his seclusion. This book was a bit beyond my level, but I still found it rather interesting to read. I really enjoyed how detailed the flashbacks were; it really showed how significant they were to the person the main character had become. I also liked the strange and fictional elements that the raven brought into the story. Sometimes the story was hard to follow because of the flashbacks, but as previously stated, they were very important. I would recommend this book to anyone with a very high vocabulary or someone who is looking for a challenging read. Also, if you like fiction books but want something new, this book is a great mix of realistic and fictional details. I found this book interesting because i’ve read a couple of Carroll’s non-fiction works and could see how characters in The Petting Zoo compared to real people in his life.

  • Ted Prokash
    2018-12-22 11:03

    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 being a native New Yorker, manages to sound like a tourist or a fake in describing the NY art scene and night life. The most painful thing about reading it is that you can sense the scenes that Carrol thought were good or important (and some of them had the potential to be both) and he puts a desperate amount of words and effort into painstakingly setting these scenes up. Thus sucking the life out of them. One of those books that really exercises your sense of guilt: the whole time you're telling yourself, 'I must finish it, I WANT to like it'. And you finally realize . . . why? Who cares?Carrol died before finishing this. Maybe he would have performed a rewrite miracle had he the chance. Rumor is he was kind of losing it in his last years. Maybe that explains The Petting Zoo.

  • John Arnold
    2018-12-28 13:17

    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.

  • Louise
    2019-01-01 19:15

    More hokey mysticism...

  • Alyssa
    2019-01-02 17:57

    Pretentious and poorly written. I was glad to finish this.