The Petting Zoo is the story of Billy Wolfram, a fictionalized painter who has something like a bi-polar breakdown. Billy’s life quickly falls apart. Billy has a childhood friend a rock musician named Denny MacAbee. A father figure in Max Bernbaum, his art dealer who has died. A love interest, Marta, who finally gives up on Billy. The characters are interesting, but the story isn’t. This was Carroll’s first novel and he died before it was finished. I wonder how much of his life is in the story? Unfortunately not much. The story seems a framework for Carroll to examine some ideas, some are interesting (creativity, the Art world) but most seem juvenile. There is a talking Raven in the story.
Carrolls dairies (The Basketball Dairies, Forced Entries) were interesting and if he had wrote one more about his years as a rock musician, his last days on earth would have been better served. (Some new songs would have been even better.)
The book is written in the third-person narrative mode, which ill-suited the material; I found it very grating.
My Kindle Notes From The Book
I only evaluate new pieces against older ones from different periods from my past. I don’t have control over what someone else does, so I learn from the patterns of progression I find within my own work over various periods. – location 577-78
Velazquez’s Saint Anthony Abbot and Saint Paul the Hermit, – location 579-80
Infanta Margarita, – location 589
Even if his skewed, undeveloped thinking could have formed a persuasive argument, he would never have tried to dissuade his mother or any of the other pious women in black kerchiefs shuffling to mass each morning of the efficacy of their sacraments. To Billy, it would be the most sinful form of thievery. He couldn’t imagine deterring these faithful women from the sweet intent of their convictions. – location 1476-79
He did not believe himself, but he believed in his mother’s belief. – location 1491-92
After all, it was the greatest gift of art to permit the onlooker to make another’s work his own and suddenly witness the animation–and clarification–of one’s own experiences. – location 1803-4
He was about to find out that when you open a door with a psychiatrist’s name on it, you’d better be prepared to witness exactly how fucked up your life has become. – location 4854-55
“If I had the ability, I would have come and somehow pulled you completely out of this tainted, fallacious zone, which was like an abandoned mine shaft where you had been descending increasingly deeper. As soon as you returned to the flow, you again lost all control and recklessly ventured too far into that mine, unaware of the distance you’d strayed. Eventually, you took a misstep in that primordial darkness and began falling, plummeting, downward. – location 5368-72
“All change is disruptive, confusing, and difficult, especially at such a propitious point in one’s career. You somehow realized that solitude was critical in bringing this transformation to fruition, and such solitude required patience and silence. – location 5430-31
“It’s time your eyes remain shut, Billy Wolfram. Now is the time, so get on with it. Take that single step and fly.” – location 5467
Soon another bird soared down from the huge Port Authority building. It was a dove, gliding directly beside the long black wings, barely visible in the pale, frigid air. – location 5469-70