Friday, April 18, 2008

Richard Price's Lush Life

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 8:26 PM

click to enlarge lush2.jpg

Novelist Richard Price has a voice that carries. Renowned for his ear for dialogue and dedication to reportorial research, he has written such persuasive, powerhouse accounts of inner city life as Clockers, Freedomland and his new novel Lush Life. He was also part of the writing staff of HBO's "The Wire," which shared his values for sprawling casts and street-level details. Incidentally, WABE-AM's Valerie Jackson interviews Price this week for her literary radio show "Between the Lines."

Another police procedural, Lush Life depicts NYPD detective Matty Clark and focuses a murder investigation on Eric Cash, a would-be artist/restaurant manager at the scene of the crime. I recently finished reading Lush Life, and although I found it overlong (like I find all of his recent novels, frankly), it unquestionably features some of sharpest dialogue I can think of in contemporary prose fiction. The book's first pages also feature this remarkable bit of prose that's worth quoting — and even worth reading aloud. It depicts a carload of New York "Quality of Life" police officers on patrol in the dead of night:

“Restless, they finally pull out to honeycomb the narrow streets for an hour of endless tight right turns: falafel joint, jazz joint, gyro joint, corner. Schoolyard, creperie, realtor, corner. Tenement, tenement, tenement museum, corner. Pink Pony, Blind Tiger, muffin boutique, corner. Sex shop, tea shop, synagogue, corner. Boulangerie, bar, hat boutique, corner. Iglesia, gelateria, matzo shop, corner. Bollywood, Buddha, botanica, corner. Leather outlet, leather outlet, leather outlet, corner. Bar, school, bar, school, People’s Park, corner. Tyson mural, Celia Cruz mural, Lady Di mural, corner. Bling shop, barbershop, car service, corner.”

To me, it's like a collaboration of Lou Reed and Walt Whitman.

(Image courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

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