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15 Facts About The Basketball Diaries

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Poet and rock musician Jim Carroll documented his precipitous fall from talented high school basketball phenom to drug addict in The Basketball Diaries, a series of entries put together in book form in 1978. After many attempts at turning it into a movie, rising stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg were joined by a talented cast that included Lorraine Bracco, Bruno Kirby, and Juliette Lewis in the 1995 movie adaptation. Here are some facts about the film to read before you wonder how the hell you're still alive.

1. ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL AND RIVER PHOENIX WERE ORIGINALLY SET TO STAR.

The Basketball Diaries was almost made by Columbia Pictures in the late 1980s starring Anthony Michael Hall. Ethan Hawke, Eric Stoltz, Matt Dillon, Stephen Dorff, and River Phoenix all expressed serious interest in playing Jim Carroll, too. Phoenix wanted the role so badly he once pulled a paperback copy of The Basketball Diaries out of his pocket and proclaimed, "I want to play Jim Carroll" in an MTV interview. Though Phoenix passed away in 1993, two years before the film was released, Carroll wondered if the actor would have been able to pull off the basketball scenes.

2. STUDIO EXECUTIVES WANTED TO SET IT IN SEATTLE.

Director Scott Kalvert had read The Basketball Diaries when he was 15 years old and compared it to Catcher in the Rye. "Nobody really wanted to make the movie," Kalvert claimed. "Some wanted [the locale] changed to Seattle because Seattle was cool. Someone wanted to change it so Jim wasn't the one involved in drugs, and I had a specific take on it."

3. THE SCREENWRITER USED TO FOLLOW CARROLL AROUND NEW YORK CITY.

Bryan Goluboff used to follow Carroll around Greenwich Village in the 1980s, when the future screenwriter was a teenager and Carroll was playing music.

4. JIM CARROLL DIDN'T KNOW WHO LEONARDO DICAPRIO WAS ... UNTIL HE REALIZED HE WAS "THE KID FROM GROWING PAINS."

"When they first told me it was gonna be Leo, I didn't know who he was," Carroll told The Los Angeles Times. "If they'd said the kid from Growing Pains, I would have known, because when I first saw that kid, I said, 'This kid has a lot of presence.' I said, 'That kid is very pretty. He's gonna do well.'"

5. MARK WAHLBERG HAD TO READ FOR THE PART SIX TIMES BECAUSE DICAPRIO DIDN'T WANT HIM IN IT.

Mark Wahlberg had appeared in just one film, 1994's Renaissance Man, and ended up reading for the part of Mickey a total of six times. DiCaprio initially refused to work with him. "Leonardo said, ‘No way, I’m not making a movie with Marky Mark,’" Wahlberg recalled in 2015. It didn't help that at an MTV Rock n' Jock basketball game, Wahlberg blocked a shot by DiCaprio, while in his underwear, and while being a self-admitted "prick" about it. It also didn't help that Wahlberg was eight hours late to his first reading with DiCaprio (because of a canceled flight). The two eventually buried the hatchet.

6. DICAPRIO DID HIS RESEARCH.

He hung out in Greenwich Village and went to a poetry reading with Carroll, basically living out Goluboff's fantasies.

7. THERE WAS A DRUG CONSULTANT ON SET.

An ex-addict was hired for authenticity. DiCaprio outlined how to talk like a junkie to the Los Angeles Times: "The voice: you go down an octave," DiCaprio explained. "Even when you raise your voice it's like you got this frog in your throat. It's not necessarily being tired and it's not necessarily like being drunk. It's sort of like your body becomes jelly and all your bones and everything become completely relaxed. You just feel at peace. Supposedly. I don't know. I've never done it. Right?"

8. THE REAL NAMES WERE ALL DIFFERENT.

With the exception of Carroll's, all of the characters's names were changed to avoid lawsuits.

9. REGGIE WAS THE ONE CHARACTER IN THE MOVIE NEVER MENTIONED IN THE BOOK.

Reggie was played by Ernie Hudson, who looked back on the making the movie fondly. "I got to know Leonardo DiCaprio; he was great to work with," Hudson told The A.V. Club. "He’s a very talented guy; I look at that movie now, and I love the scenes that we had together. It certainly took everything I had. It was some of the best work I’ve ever done."

10. CHLOË SEVIGNY DIDN'T WANT IT MADE.

In Jay McInerney's New Yorker profile of the then-20-year-old "It Girl," he documented the time Sevigny—a fan of Carroll's work—approached him in the East Village and told him, “You can’t let them do this.” McInerney elaborated that she was worried the film would "violate the spirit of the book" and reported that she rolled her eyes at the thought of Marky Mark being involved in the project.

11. THREE FUTURE SOPRANOS STARS WERE IN IT.

Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi) played Jim's mom; Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) portrayed Bobby, Carroll's friend with leukemia; and Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy) had the honor of getting vomited on while riding the ferry. When asked in 2010 about some of her favorite roles, Bracco cited her work in The Basketball Diaries, saying "it was a really great character."

12. THE BASKETBALL SCENES WERE FILMED AT SCOTT KALVERT'S FORMER HIGH SCHOOL.

Forest Hills High, located in Queens, New York, hosted the movie's basketball games. "I think they've still got my picture and prison number on the wall," the director joked. When asked if he played high school hoops, Kalvert said, "No. I did the drugs, though."

13. CARROLL MISSED THE MOVIE'S WORLD PREMIERE AT SUNDANCE.

He had to stay in New York City and meet with a Vatican monsignor who investigates miracles, "like the image of Christ burnt into a tortilla," for research.

14. CARROLL DIDN'T LIKE THE MOVIE.

While he thought the performances were really good—particularly DiCaprio and Wahlberg's—Carroll took issue with the movie's ending. "If they just ended with him staring out the window I think it would've worked. It would've been very literary. The way they re-shot it was kinda corny, so clean and everything." He also didn't agree with Kalvert's direction. "But the director was just a techno freak. He didn't have any literary sense at all."

One night during production, Carroll had a "real blow out" with Kalvert, and DiCaprio seemingly took Carroll's side and left the set. "But he just had a crème brulee and returned. Once I lost his cachet, my leverage went way down."

15. IT GOT MORE PEOPLE TO READ THE BOOK.

Carroll—who passed away in 2009—was surprised that the movie got more people to read his original book. "I thought these kids that were going to see it were going to see Leo and Marky Wahlberg; they're not going to buy the book. But it was actually kids who were buying the book, and I started to get this flood of mail from kids with drug problems or who got off drugs because of the book."

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15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood
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MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

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China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
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People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
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A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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