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.
So, what do you do? Whenever people asked him, Eric Cash used to have a dozen answers. Artist, actor, screenwriter . . . But now hes thirty-five years old and hes 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 wouldnt say tending bar. He was going placesuntil two street kids stepped up to him and Eric one night and pulled a gun. At least, thats Erics 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).
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.
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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