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LUSH LIFE

Book Review   by:Shail_India     Original Author: Richard Price
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In “Lush Life,” Richard Price’s eighth novel, the resurfacing project that caps the same old potholes (and threatens to collapse in certain areas, potentially creating immense new craters capable of swallowing small crowds) targets the tangled, once tenement-lined streets of New York City’s Lower East Side. In Realtor-speak, the district is “in transition,” which means in Police Department terms that its college-educated young renting class and bonus-gorged co-op-owning elite can still score narcotics from the old-guard locals, whose complexions are generally darker than the new folks’, making them easy to spot on party nights but tricky to ID in photo lineups come the red-eyed mornings after. Keeping such bloody collisions of class and color to an acceptably inconspicuous minimum is the job of the so-called quality-of-life squads that Price — a consummate stalker-realist who seems to have written the book from stoops and doorways; his gaze is that pathologically focused, his ear that tuned — portrays as a nincompoop nouvelle constabulary whose stakeouts are so light on lock-and-load moments they’d put even the Hardy Boys to sleep. Down on newly hip Orchard and Eldridge Streets, among the exclusive no-signage clubs and Zagat-rated fusion eateries, what was once an authentic urban jungle has almost themed itself out of existence, turning a lot of the cops into park rangers.But once in a while the cooped-up cats still pounce, tempted by so much slow-moving, pampered prey, all sodden with money and novelty martinis. The lights go on in Price’s interrogation room after just such an ambush.The victim — the one who lives — is Eric Cash, in his own mind an emerging writer but known to the world as a veteran restaurant manager. In his mid-30s, the descendant of Jewish ghetto-dwellers who lived and died on the same city blocks where Eric is riding out his undiscovered phase along with 20,000 other tip-dependent would-be screenwriters, he heads out one night with two pals into the Disneyhood and suddenly finds himself in Scorceseland. A gun comes out, a brown finger on its trigger, and the next thing Eric knows he’s in the ugly room recounting the mugging and murder of his friend Ike to a female officer, Yolanda, and a more traditionally male and Irish fellow, Matty Clark. Eric thinks he’s a witness but really he’s a suspect, and Price provides the taut, triangular dialogue, which at first sounds a bit like standard noir talk (Price writes for the cable crime drama “The Wire”) but soon grows bushier, thornier and taller in a way the screen can’t quite contain because of its horizontal orientation but which fits with the verticality of the page and sometimes, as the book goes on, climbs clean off it and up into the sky.Here’s a restaurant owner, Eric’s boss, griping about the hypersensitive neighbors who’ve been bugging him to keep the noise down or risk the cancellation of his liquor license. “The whites. The, the ‘pioneers. ... The Latinos? The Chinese? The ones been living here since the Flood? Couldn’t be nicer.
Happy for the jobs. The thing is, the complainers? They’re the ones that started all this. We just follow them. Always have, always will. Come down here, buy some smack squat from the city, do a little fix-up, have a nice big studio, rent out the extra space, mix it up with the ethnics, feel all good and politically righteous about yourself. But those lofts now? Those buildings? Twenty-five hundred square feet, fourth floor, no elevator, Orchard and Broome. Two point four mil just last week.” If fiction writing were a fairer profession, the price of such hearing would be blindness, but the hell of it is that Price can also see — even in the dark and at great distances — and not only with his ordinary two eyes but with a wider, clearer third one that’s set between them and an inch above them. “The Clara E. Lemlich Houses were a grubby sprawl of 50-year-old high-rises sandwiched between two centuries. To the west, the 14-story buildings were towered over by One Police Plaza and Verizon headquarters, massive futuristic structures without any distinguishing features other than their blind climbing endlessness.”Tentatively and gradually, however, fragile, improvised bonds begin developing like laundry lines strung between apartment windowsills. Catalyzed by a miniature crisis that means nothing in the scope of history but everything down on the sidewalks and the streets, detectives align themselves with victims’ families, freed suspects with the officials who once suspected them, managers with the workers whose tips they skim. The transient, self-serving affinities that pass for affection just before the bars close and the showy displays of grief that intensify when the media are around melt and trickle away over the curbs, where they’re splashed into vapor by the trucks and cars supplying the place with its goodies and its shoppers. There’s an orthodox leftist sentimentality here mixed up with a certain primal conservative yearning, but they react in solution toward the end to form a raw and slightly unstable new compound that Price isn’t shy about valuing higher than mere gold — which, despite its shiny, alluring heft, ultimately weighs us down until we can only stand in place, envious, anxious, cocky and alone.GET THIS BOOK FREE.BUY SELL RENT BOOKS ONLINE - ON MY BLOG.http://workfromhomedepot.blogspot.com/2008/01/review-books-summary-abstracts.html
Published: March 24, 2008   
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