In Jim Carroll's The Petting Zoo (Viking, Nov.), young Billy Wolfram steals a knife from his mother's silverware set and plunges it into the wet concrete outside his Inwood, N.Y., bedroom window. Instead of growing up a knight, however, Billy becomes a painter in the 1980s New York art scene. He suffers from sensory overload at a black tie affair when thunderstruck by the genius of Velazquez's paintings. During an anxiety attack, he flees the Metropolitan Museum for the Central Park petting zoo, where he meets a mystical raven that guides him in personal and artistic discoveries. Sprinkled with elements of magical realism, Carroll's posthumously published novel presents a voice that has matured since The Basketball Diaries and Forced Entries. Yet hallmark traits of his earlier work—an empathic love of Manhattan, a romanticizing of his Catholic upbringing—resonate throughout this imaginative and ghostly swan song.