Price, Richard. “Lush Life”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
A Different New York
New York City is magical in the eyes and minds of many. It is one of the cultural centers of the world and represents to many what America is all about. But the New York that Richard Price writes about is devoid of the magic and beauty that so many associate with the United States’ largest city. In his eighth book, Price tears away the outer layer of the city and looks at New York in a way that most would not. By giving New York larger than life characters that use expressive dialogue, we learn of the New York that is seamy and replete with underground networks of both violence and control. Here is a tough, rough realistic view of New York City where survival is based not only of who you know but how you live.
Price writes dialogue as does it beautifully and he is wonderful in the way that he writes about the world that we live in. Using the city of New York to give us a complete sense of place, his well defined characters provide the plot. Price’s realism may put some off and his sense of history shines through his writing. His characters speak truth and I felt as I was spying on things that perhaps I should not have known. The part of society that he deals with is foreign to most of us.
Eric Cash is a restaurant worker but one night the death of a man changes his life forever. What happened that night and several individuals come together to provide the story of “Lush Life”. There are many subplots and these do cause the book to drag at times but even with that the character development makes this a book to read.
It is hard to assign this book a genre. It is a crime story but it is much more than that. Price takes what is not much more than a very small piece of life, one incident in that life and turns it into an epic, in a sense, but without all of what usually goes with it. This is an interesting technique but the beauty of the language and the depth of the characters tend to slow down the novel (which is quite long at 450 pages). Nevertheless the intensity of time and place make thus a worthwhile read.