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Lush Life: A Novel Hardcover – March 4, 2008
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Amazon Significant Seven, March 2008: No one has a better ear and eye for the American city than Richard Price, and in Lush Life, his first novel in five years, he leaves the fictional environs of Dempsy, New Jersey, where Clockers, Freedomland, and Samaritan were set, for a few crowded blocks of Manhattan's Lower East Side. There's a crime at the heart of the story, but you don't read Price for plot. Instead, you listen as he peels apart layers of class and history through the way his characters talk to each other: hipster bartenders who tell people they're really writers, homeboys from housing projects named after the Jewish immigrants who have long left the neighborhood, and cops, cops, cops, circling the streets looking for a collar, disappearing into their cases as their own lives go to ruin. --Tom Nissley
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Master of the Bronx and Jersey projects, Price (Clockers) turns his unrelenting eye on Manhattan's Lower East Side in this manic crescendo of a novel that explores the repercussions of a seemingly random shooting. When bartender Ike Marcus is shot to death after barhopping with friends, NYPD Det. Matty Clark and his team first focus on restaurant manager and struggling writer Eric Cash, who claims the group was accosted by would-be muggers, despite eyewitnesses saying otherwise. As Matty grills Eric on the still-hazy details of the shooting, Price steps back and follows the lives of the alleged shooters—teenagers Tristan Acevedo and Little Dap Williams, who live in a nearby housing project—as well as Ike's grieving father, Billy, who hounds the police even as leads dwindle. As the intersecting narratives hurtle toward a climax that's both expected and shocking, Price peels back the layers of his characters and the neighborhood until all is laid bare. 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. Author tour. (Mar.)
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But since it is literature, and even great literature can seem tedious at times, a potential reader might be wary that he/she would have to bring too much energy to reading the novel. Don't worry about that. This book is immediately engaging on many levels. Full of suspense and uncertainty - a novel told from the head of a NYPD detective could hardly avoid that - "Lush Life" is, among other things, a nail-biter story that passionately and primarily describes a police investigation into a murder that occurred in the lower east side of Manhattan, without sentimentality, but with the tenderest possible empathy for nearly all the characters, good guys and bad guys alike. The prose is diamond-sharp and satisfying without being self-conscious as so many works of "literary fiction" are. And it's realistic to the tiniest detail. In fact, I've never read or seen any books, films, television shows, etc., that even come close to describing the way things are actually done.
Although it would be misleading to call this "genre" fiction, If you are interested in the genre fiction about crimes, that also happens to be (great?) literature, this is the book for you. Although the story follows a familiar - but not quite formulaic - trajectory, it is not a cookie-cutter airport book, even if you buy it in an airport. The accomplished craft with which the novel is made makes "Lush Life" satisfying in a way most books of this genre cannot approach.
Dialog that simply crackles is a high spot, but there are several tedious patches about 300 pages in that require motoring through. All in all, very entertaining though, and a solid effort from Price, who is an excellent writer, stretching his wings just a little bit here.
One minor complaint: the title itself is a wrong note -- referencing an old Billy Strayhorn jazz standard from the Forties. Didn't resonate with me...
Most recent customer reviews
Story with twists, that takes some time to reach a conclusion.