Summary and book reviews of Lush Life by Richard Price

Lush Life

A Novel

By Richard Price

Lush Life
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2008,
    464 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2009,
    464 pages.

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Book Summary

So, what do you do?” Whenever people asked him, Eric Cash used to have a dozen answers. Artist, actor, screenwriter . . . But now he’s thirty-five years old and he’s still living on the Lower East Side, still in the restaurant business, still serving the people he wanted to be. What does Eric do? He manages. Not like Ike Marcus. Ike was young, good-looking, people liked him. Ask him what he did, he wouldn’t say tending bar. He was going places—until two street kids stepped up to him and Eric one night and pulled a gun. At least, that’s Eric’s version.

In Lush Life, Richard Price tears the shiny veneer off the “new” New York to show us the hidden cracks, the underground networks of control and violence beneath the glamour. Lush Life is an Xray of the street in the age of no broken windows and “quality of life” squads, from a writer whose “tough, gritty brand of social realism . . . reads like a movie in prose” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times).

Prologue

The Quality of Life Task Force: four sweatshirts in a bogus taxi set up on the corner of Clinton Street alongside the Williamsburg Bridge off-ramp to profile the incoming salmon run; their mantra: Dope, guns, overtime; their motto: Everyone's got something to lose.

"Is dead tonight."

The four car-stops so far this evening have been washouts: three municipals - a postal inspector, a transit clerk, and a garbageman, all city employees off-limits - and one guy who did have a six-inch blade under his seat, but no spring-release.

A station wagon coming off the bridge pulls abreast of them at the Delancey Street light, the driver a tall, gray, long-nosed man sporting a tweed jacket and Cuffney cap.

"The Quiet Man," Geohagan murmurs.

"That'll do, pig," Scharf adds.

Lugo, Daley, Geohagan, Scharf; Bayside, New Dorp, Freeport, Pelham Bay, all in their thirties, which, at this late hour, made them some of the oldest white men on the Lower East Side.

Forty ...

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Reviews

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Lush Life reads like a giant, sprawling episode of your favorite fast-talking police procedural, with type breaks and metaphors standing in for jump cuts and sweeping crane-mounted pans across the city skyline. Much more in line with The Wire (for which Richard Price wrote several episodes) than Law and Order, Price is obviously concerned with deeper ideas about the nature of the city,  gentrification, and the intersections of race and class, and Lush Life both succeeds and suffers for it. Many readers will come to this novel wanting Price to walk a fine line, hoping to find either a masterful work of crime fiction that transcends the genre or a finely crafted novel shot through with a thrilling dose of crime drama. Despite all the rave reviews in major publications, I can't help thinking that readers from both camps are going to be disappointed. I know there are readers out there who will embrace Lush Life for its powerhouse writing and insider's vision, but I suspect there are just as many who will be left as unmoved and confused as I was by the heaps of praise laid at its doorstep.   (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

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Media Reviews
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

He depicts his characters' daily lives with such energy, such nuance and such keen psychological radar that he makes it all come alive to the reader—a visceral, heart-thumping portrait of New York City and some of its residents, complete with soundtrack, immortalized in this dazzling prose movie of a novel.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With its perfect dialogue and attention to the smallest detail, Price's latest reminds readers why he's one of the masters of American urban crime fiction.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Price is an exceptionally accomplished storyteller ...and though what Price narrates often disturbs, it is just as often funny...Price's New York is a city that no longer works: too many people are left bruised, with no safety net.

Kirkus Reviews

There oughta be a law requiring Richard Price to publish more frequently. Because nobody does it better. Really. No time, no way.

USA Today - Carol Memmott

Price, who was raised in the Bronx, gives his characters the walk and the talk of the city streets. The ultimate literary realist, Price tells a story that, as neatly as a black-and-white photo, shows all the shades of gray in our urban landscapes.

The Boston Globe - Maud Newton

From "The Wanderers," through "Clockers" and "Samaritan," Price's fiction has partaken of a dark, dry humor that emerges mostly in the characters' conversations, but "Lush Life" is his funniest book yet, more overtly comedic than any that precede it. If the novel has a failing, it's that Price doesn't dig down quite as relentlessly into the tar pits of his characters' motivations as he's generally done in the past.

Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese

Price moves deftly among his characters, and it is never clear who stands at the emotional center of the story .... In fact, this big, powerful novel belongs to all of them, and, like The Wire, its real protagonist is the complicated, tragic, and endlessly fascinating American city street. "A".

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