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Jim Carroll was born in New York City in 1950, and descended from three generations of Irish Catholic bartenders. He grew up on the Lower East Side before moving with his family to Upper Manhattan when he was twelve. Carroll revised a diary he kept as a teenage years into his most famous literary work, The Basketball Diaries (1978), which chronicles Carroll’s double life as a star student and basketball player and who also happened to be a junkie, hustling gay men to support his drug habit. At fifteen Carroll started writing poetry, and at sixteen published his first book of poems, Organic Trains (1967); he went on to publish five more books of poetry, including The Living At The Movies (1973), Book of Nods (1986), and Fear of Dreaming (1993).

Also a musician and song writer, Carroll formed the Jim Carroll Band; their album Catholic Boy is considered a significant punk record with its hit single "People Who Died." In 1995 a film version of The Basketball Diaries was released starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and in 2002-2003 Carroll recorded three spoken word albums, including a reading of Jack Kerouac’s Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake and William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Jim Carroll died of a heart attack at his writing desk in 2009.