About the Webmaster
Updated 7 October 2009
Greetings! My name is Cassie Carter, and I am the webmaster--or
webmistress, or webmonster, or Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, whichever you prefer--of Catholicboy.com.
I live in New York City and work as an information architect and interaction designer (IxD); my portffolio is at CassieCarter.com. How I got where I am now is
a long story, but no matter how disjointed my biography may seem,
Jim Carroll always fits in there somehow, and Jim remains as essential
to me today as he was when I first "discovered" him back
I began developing websites when I created the Jim
Carroll Website at the tail end of 1995, while I was finishing the
coursework for my PhD in English at Bowling Green State University
in Ohio. I developed what is now CatholicBoy.com after I contacted
the webmaster of Literary Kicks, a site devoted to Beat Writers, about
expanding his section on Jim Carroll. He suggested to me that a
Jim Carroll website might be cool. I thought that was a novel
idea . . . so I started learning HTML by viewing the HTML sources
of my favorite websites (I started with Babelogue,
the Patti Smith website) and talking to colleagues who were experimenting
with the web. For more information about the development of the
website, please check out the About this Website page.
I completed the first "draft" of the website
while enjoying a "non-service" fellowship at Bowling Green
State University. "Non-service" means that I wasn't teaching
any classes. I was completing the research and notes for my PhD
dissertation, which had nothing to do with Jim Carroll.
After completing my doctorate and a two-year term as full-time
visiting assistant professor in Michigan
State University's department of American
Thought and Language, I moved to New York City in July 1998
to get in on the gold rush that was the internet in those days. You can read about my
web development career on my professional website.
It all makes perfect sense, right? My doctoral specializations are
in contemporary American fiction and drama, women's writing, and
culture studies. My dissertation,
entitled "'Woman, Red in Tooth and Claw': Angry Essentialism,
Abjection, and Visionary Liberation in Women's Performances,"
examines the performance art of Karen Finley and Holly Hughes
in order to define "Angry Essentialism." I coined the
term "Angry Essentialism" to describe a recent movement
in feminism that champions the "bad girl" side of the
Woman/Nature equation as a site constituting power for women.
Hey, web development was a logical career choice.
That was irony, in case you missed it . . .
But back to Jim Carroll.
The first time I ever heard of Jim Carroll was in
a "rock poetry" course at San Diego State University.
(Remember that I ended up at Bowling Green State University, home
of the popular culture movement, and now you know why.) My professor,
Larry McCaffery, offhandedly mentioned some guy named "Jim
Carol" (as I wrote in my notes) and his album Catholic Boy.
I made a note of it, spelling Carroll incorrectly, of course.
But I didn't follow up on this lead until a year later.
I became interested in Jim Carroll in 1987 when I
was taking another course with Larry McCaffery a year later. This
was a course in contemporary American literature at San Diego State
University. I had just completed my BA in psychology (with an English
minor) in May, but I found myself just as interested in literature
as I was in psychology. I was at a turning point, when I could have
gone either way. I was taking courses in American literature in the English department, and
statistics in the psychology department, when my literature professor, Larry McCaffery, told me about The Basketball Diaries.
At this stage, I read anything Professor McCaffery suggested,
and I picked up The Basketball Diaries thinking, oh, god,
I can't handle sports. I thought it would be a book about basketball.
I was about 50 pages into The Basketball Diaries
when I saw a flyer announcing that Jim Carroll would be coming to
SDSU's BackDoor club for a reading; I immediately bought a ticket
(I think it was $4).
That evening, November 13, 1987, changed my life.
To make a long story short, seeing
Carroll in person showed me the power of words, and particularly the power of spoken word. Watching Jim
on stage, I saw him metamorphose: he was a tall, pale, thin man
with long red hair and his shoes untied; he was a 13 year old street
punk shooting hoops on the Lower East Side; he was a rock star on
stage; he was a poet handling words like explosives. He was mesmerizing.
Suddenly I realized that here is a man who has literally created
himself through writing.
I was hooked.
Seeing Jim clinched my decision. Because I hadn't
majored in English, I consulted with the graduate advisor in SDSU's
English program to see what I needed to do, then I took more literature
courses so that I could enter SDSU's MA program in English in August
I was awarded a graduate assistantship (I was thrown into the classroom as a teacher with NO training
in teaching). I taught four sections each of beginning and intermediate
composition and attempted to work the bugs out of my teaching methods
as I went along. Meanwhile, I continued working with Dr. McCaffery,
who became my mentor and role model--click here to see his list of the best fiction of the 20th century
and you'll know where I'm at, too.
Like Larry, I specialized in contemporary American
literature. In this field, during my first semester, I began working
with Dr. Dorothea Kehler on an annotated primary and secondary bibliography
of Jim, which I published in Bulletin of Bibliography in
1990. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Kehler for her enthusiastic
support of my work--she is still excited about my work! Dorothea
Kehler, like Larry McCaffery, is one professor and influence I wouldn't
trade for the world.
I spent two years researching my bibliography of
Jim Carroll (under Dr. Kehler's guidance), and in the process I
received help and advice from many people, including Jim's ex-wife,
Rosemary Carroll, and her assistant, Karen Pals; Janet Kraybill
at Viking Penguin; Matthew Bailer at the William Morris Agency;
Anne Corrigan at New World Video; Joe Selby at BAM, and,
most importantly, from Jim himself--he gave me the specifics no
one else could have provided.
Although I had attended three of Jim's readings before
in 1987 and 1988 (at one of which I actually had enough courage
to shake the man's hand and, with glazed-over eyes, tell him: "I
think you are a genius"), I talked with Jim for the first time
on July 7, 1989, at the Spirit club in San Diego. He was there for
a reading, and Rosemary had arranged for me to talk with him. After
the show, I made my way back to the green room, where Jim was signing
autographs for adoring fans. I introduced myself and started asking
him questions--like where I could get his first book, Organic
Trains. He pulled out a copy of the book and gave it to me.
Only about 500 copies of Organic Trains were
printed, and about half of them were "lost" by the publisher. This copy of Organic Trains, which Jim gave
to me, is one of my most prized possessions. If there was a fire,
I'd grab my birds and this book. I have a lot of other neat goodies
I'd want to throw into the rescue bag, but this copy of Organic
Trains is priceless to me.
In any case, at the time of this first meeting, I
was teaching freshman writing courses at San Diego State University,
and my students (who were required to keep journals), having read
The Basketball Diaries, had composed questions about the
book. Now, I had prepared a set of interview questions for Jim,
and I had put them in another folder. But when I got to the greenroom
at the Spirit Club, I discovered I'd brought the wrong folder
to the reading. I had brought the folder containing my students'
When I realized what I had done, I showed Jim some
of the questions. He thought they were funny until he got to one
asking, "How could Jim stoop to hustling? Is he a flaming homosexual?"
He was keenly insulted by this, and I swear he hasn't returned to
San Diego for a reading since. In any case, a Canadian friend on
my mailing list sent me an article from the March 19, 1992,
issue of Eye Weekly in which Jim actually talks about this
experience (ouch!). (Jim insists that he didn't mean
to cut me down. That makes me feel a little better.)
So anyway, eventually, to make a long story a little shorter,
Jim bummed a ride off me back to his motel, so I had the chance to
talk with him for about an hour. Many of the magazine publications
listed in my Bulletin of Bibliograpy article are there thanks
to Jim's help, because I wouldn't have found them without his assistance.
After I completed the bibliography, I finished my
200-page master's thesis on The Basketball Diaries and Forced Entries,
completing my master's degree in December of 1990 under the guidance
of Larry McCaffery.
While I was working on the bibliography and thesis,
I had one of the most vivid dreams of my life, and it was about
Jim Carroll and my work about him. If you want to read my description
of this dream--straight from my diary--click here.
The Jim Carroll Scholars (L-R):
Me; David Gallant (U of Rhode Island);
Stephen Perrin (Liverpool
Hope University College, UK); Richard Campbell
(Winona State University,
I have written and published quite a bit on Jim Carroll over the years, including:
- “Jim Carroll.” Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series. Ed. Scot Peacock. Vol. 115. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 56-61.
- “Jim Carroll.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 143. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 25-54.
- ”The Sickness That Takes Years to Perfect: Jim Carroll’s Alchemical Vision." Dionysos: Literature and Addiction 6.1 (Winter 1996): 6-19. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 204. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 40-46.
- "Jim Carroll: An Annotated, Selective, Primary and Secondary Bibliography, 1967 – 1988." Bulletin of Bibliography 47.2 (1990): 81-112.
I have also presented conference papers on his work
(including one on "Tiny Tortures"), and in November 1996 I united
the main Jim Carroll scholars for the first time on a panel devoted
to Jim's work at the Midwest Popular Culture and American Culture
Associations' conference--I was a Program Director of this conference
To backtrack a bit, after I had completed my MA thesis and graduated
in December 1990, I got to meet Jim again, this time at Cafe Largo
in Hollywood, CA. He was doing back-to-back readings there, so
following the first reading I approached the bartender and asked
him to give Jim a message from me. At just that moment, Jim reappeared
and began fixing himself some coffee. I went up to him and introduced
myself, but he already knew who I was. He actually remembered
me. I followed him back to the green room (I also had one of my
students with me) and talked to him for about an hour there. Actually,
I made him late for his second reading. The amazing thing about
this meeting was that he was discussing, from memory, things I
had said in letters to him over the previous two years.
A few years later, around the same time I launched this
website, I singlehandedly brought Jim to Bowling Green State University
on February 20, 1996; if you want to know how I did it, see How
I Accomplished the Impossible.
A nice bonus in this accomplishment was that I also
got to hang out with Jim for two days. That's when I started referring
to him as "Jim," by the way, partly because Jim's booking agent kept teasing me for referring to Jim as "Carroll"
or "Mr. Carroll," and partly because Jim is such an informal,
unassuming person that no matter the conventions of literary scholarship
or my deep respect for him as an artist, in person it's almost impossible
to avoid calling him anything but "Jim" without feeling
silly. I still refer to him as "Carroll" in my scholarly
In any case, Jim--or Mr. Carroll, if you prefer--gave
me a "greeting poem" for the
website while we were sitting in the Toledo airport waiting for his delayed
flight back to New York.
Another time, in February 1998, when he gave two readings
in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan, Jim surprised me. I had brought
a couple of letters from fans to give to him (since it was easier
than forwarding them by mail, like I usually do), and when I said,
"Jim, I have some stuff for you," he said, "I have
something for you, too." He had brought me a copy of the new
edition of The Basketball Diaries and a color photocopy
of the new cover art for Fear of Dreaming.
I thought it was nice of him to think of me, especially when he
hadn't seen me in nearly a year. Oh, and he also noticed right away
that I'd dyed my hair red.
Another interesting meeting was in March 1997, when
I had the pleasure of seeing him perform an actual concert
with Lenny Kaye at Cornell University. After the show I went out
for a late dinner with Jim and Lenny. Later on, after Jim had headed
back to his motel, I was Lenny's partner in a game of pool. We
won, no thanks to me.
My favorite Jim Carroll encounters have taken place in New York.
The first was on the weekend of January 24, 1997. It was my first
"real" visit to New York, and Jim invited me to his
place. He showed me his computer, photo albums and scrap books.
Another memorable time was on November 13, 1999. Jim did two shows
at the Bottom Line and afterwards we walked across Manhattan,
talking about silly stuff. I can't imagine a better way to celebrate
the 12th anniversary of the first time I saw him (in San Diego)
and the 9th anniversary of the completion of my master's thesis
Since 1996, and especially after I moved to NYC, my relationship with Jim developed into a cherished
friendship. I talked to Jim almost
every week about upcoming shows, completed gigs, his books, his
past, day-to-day stuff, whatever. During the summer of 2009, I spent a lot of time with him at his apartment in Inwood, helping him to organize the final revisions of his novel. On September 9, I sent him a text message letting him know I was on my way to the airport and would return in ten days. He replied with a text message asking me to be sure and call him as soon as I got back, closing with a note that his "new fav" song was "Brown-Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison -- a direct reference to his own poem "Jukebox." Two days later, Jim was gone.
I wish I could share Jim Carroll as I know him. This website is my best shot.
Cassie Carter, PhD