Paul Bryant's Reviews > Lush Life

Lush Life by Richard Price
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's review
Aug 07, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: gangsters-floozies-and-creeps, novels

1) Police prodecurals are not thrillers or mysteries or detective stories, they're grind-em-out painful-detail-by-painful-detail hour-by-hour no-heroes no-feel-good gloomfests. Looking at the one and two star reviews on Bookface for Lush Life, it seems perhaps people are reading Lush Life for the wrong reasons. Ain't going to be any epiphanies here, no triumph, no resolution, if the bad guys are ever caught, which is dubious, it'll probably be through some banal circumstance, some by-the-book legwork. There'll be no Holmsian brilliance but there will be middle aged guys with sizeable guts, ex-wives they can't stand, kids they never see and of course drink problems.

2) Police procedurals appear to have taken over the world of crime writing, although I don't read that much crime fiction, so I may be talking out of my left ventricle. But I'm thinking of The Wire, The Corner, Homicide the TV show (so good it hurt to watch it), Homicide the book (might be the best true crime book ever), and even back to the venerable Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. And The Sopranos was kind of a Crime Procedural. You could fill up your bathtub with gritty police procedural dirty-realism fiction, never have to leave the hood if you don't want to.

3) Richard Price is extremely good at this stuff, this is a big fat book at 455 pages but the type was so tiny it was really a 600 pager, and takes place over around eight or nine days. So : this one is slooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Which is the opposite of what some people want crime fiction to be, so they will not be happy with Richard Price, they may wish to run him over with a motor mower as I did Don DeLillo when I attempted the malformed pile of hideous sentences published under the title "Underworld".

4) In this book detail is everything, detail is king, there are so many details of cop life, hood life, Lower East Side life, and each and every one could earn Mr Price some withering sarcasm and disrespect if he got it wrong, so you have to say Mr Price is very sure of himself, very. Maybe he's banking on the probability that his readers will not be the people he writes about - that's a fair assumption, I read this one in leafy ultrawhite Suffolk, England, so I can't really challenge Mr Price on the way scores of coke are made on Delancey Street or if old Chinese guys have finally learned to trust banks and not carry their entire life savings around on their person or how detectives have to plan sneaky campaigns against their bosses to get resources to investigate their bad cases. Etc.

5) Anyway, first I thought this book was a balloon that took 50 pages to get pumped up and 400 pages to gradually deflate, but after a lot of minutes spent reading Mr Price's compressed, unskimmable prose and wrestling with what every other noun actually means, and marvelling how very very few similes or metaphors he uses, in contradistinction to so many other literary writers I might mention, taking in the fact that this book dragged me in and kept me in against my will almost, being almost entirely in the company of people I would run a mile from in real life, some of the time, reading on and on and feeling like there was no oxygen in the room, all of that, still, with every caveat, with every weaselly if and but and you have to take into consideration, still, this is a fine book, and those who like this kind of stuff will find it's the kind of stuff they like.
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Reading Progress

August 7, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
August 14, 2009 – Shelved as: gangsters-floozies-and-creeps
August 14, 2009 – Shelved as: novels
August 14, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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David What did you think, Paul? I liked the writing and the dialog, but the plot was a bit ... desultory.

message 2: by Noran (last edited Aug 14, 2009 10:46AM) (new)

Noran Miss Pumkin my bifocals are not working--so i guess i am going to have to pass for now. great review! :)

Paul Bryant Hey guys, you're SO FAST you got your comments in while I was still finishing off this review!!! Ouch! Internet rocks, huh?

message 4: by D. (new) - rated it 3 stars

D. Pow I'M with david on this one. pyrotechnic language, perfect scene setting, best dialogue writer around but it went nowhere. samaritan and clockers are better.

great review though, paul.

message 5: by Lori (new)

Lori I haven't read him yet altho I've been meaning to. When the used book store right up the hill closed shop and slashed all their prices, I did pick up Samaritan and Clockers. So yay that I got 2 of his better ones!

message 6: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Moorhouse Definitely read it for the wrong reason--and didn't even get to the book chat in the end, so it was all a waste of time!

Paul Bryant Thanks for the kind words Ronni........

Will Byrnes Nice review. Particularly agree on item #5. Price's command of language, local patois in particular, blows me away.

message 9: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Fantastic review, thank you!

message 10: by Zadignose (new)

Zadignose I haven't read any of his books yet, but your review makes me want to, even if it wasn't intended as an unqualified glowing praising kind of review.

One point, I would expect Richard Price to display a good degree of authenticity. The one thing I know about him is that he was serious about experience as research for his writing.

message 11: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant I've read three of RP's novels and I do think he's great - you may find this review amusing

message 12: by Diane (new)

Diane I'd love to read it. I've seen the
movie a few times over the years
and loved it. Didn't know it was
a book - ignorant me!!

Michelle You may not have realized it, but Richard Price, the author of Lush Life, wrote The Wire.

I thought it was a great book and felt like he very skillfully established the separate worlds of the various characters. I was challenged by some of the slang used by the neighborhood kids, and some police lingo took some time to become clear. But overall, I really liked this book. It seemed like a very true to life telling of how things work for the various different groups of people inhabiting this area of the city. The teens and preteens had the combination of fear of everything and the swagger of invincibility.

message 14: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant quite agree Michelle - I found out about Mr Price's Wire writing after this review. That show was made for him to write for.

Michelle It helps me read his dialogue. The pacing seems to make more sense to me with that show in the back of my mind.

Lydia Mann I loved it as an audiobook – narrated brilliantly by Bobby Cannavale, it was like listening to great theater.

message 17: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Bryant must have been a long long listen!

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