November 14, 2008 by Reader's Connection
Why does Richard Price deserve to be a featured author?
1) He doesn’t have a website. Or if he has one, Google can’t find it, and that in itself is worth a gold star.
2) His writing, in whatever medium, is usually crime-related, but always looks around at social conditions and inward at twists in human nature.
3) He has written some of the scripts for the HBO program (if the library didn’t have a policy against blinking lights on our website, I would have inserted blinking lights here):
The Wire was picked as a favorite by both Barack Obama and John McCain. Clearly, all Americans should watch this series.
4) Price has written some movie scripts. The filmmakers have mangled some of his work, and the critics don’t always like these films. But I tend to like them. An example is Sea of Love.
6) His characters are wonderfully drawn, and his dialogue is legendary. There is some disagreement, actually, as to whether he “writes the language we hear and speak better than any novelist around” (Russell Banks, on the Lush Life dust jacket) or whether “Actual speech tends to be dribblingly repetitive, and relatively nonfigurative, nonpictorial. Price, by contrast, awards his characters great figurative powers, endows them with an ability to take everyone’s clichés and customize them into something gleaming and fresh.” (James Wood, in The New Yorker) I don’t know which of these is true, and I don’t care. Okay, I guess I’d go with Wood.
7) Price’s writing has great momentum. My intention was to read only a little bit of Lush Life, and pretend on this blog to be an expert on the book. Then I could get back to other things that I was trying to read. But I can’t put the novel down. Some cops are working a night shift in the prologue, and then in the first chapter the Virgin Mary appears in the condensation pattern on the freezer door of a mini-mart, causing an enormous line to form, and then a couple of drugged-up guys plan a mugging, and then someone gets shot and I can’t stop reading.
Since Google & I can’t find a Price website, you’ll have to make do with an interesting interview. It’s a two-parter. There’s a 2004 interview, and at the end of that you can click forward to 2008.
And if you don’t have time for the interview, here’s a little of what Price has to say about Lush Life:
This book is about a homicide on the Lower East Side. The Lower East Side at this point is six worlds, and the only thing anybody knows about is the historical, Yiddish boomtown and the new bohemian playground. The fact of the matter is, there are heavy housing projects, a lot of tenements, and the realtors haven’t gotten to a lot of the tenements yet. There’s still Hispanic, Dominican. There is a huge Chinese immigrant population, probably the second biggest population down there. Then you have the new bohemians down there who are sort of playing.
Everybody thinks the Lower East Side is this yuppy-buppy-schmuppy playground, and it is to some extent, and the prices have gone through the roof, but it’s also black and Dominican and Chinese and Orthodox Jewish. And everybody’s talking about this rehabilitation like it’s this done deal.