PHOTO VIA NYTIMES
Never have I craved a book as much as Lush Life. And by that I mean, after a day at work, I actually want to read a book rather than sit in front of an episode of The Tudors like some historical fiction-obsessed zombie. I made the mistake of not buying it after last night's reading, and, tonight, my neighorhood half-price bookstore did not have a copy, or anything by Richard Price, if I looked in the right places. Having stopped in on my way home from the gym, I decided I was too grossly sweat-stained to look for it at Borders. I imagine the local bookstore gods are pleased, as I will probably go to Brazos tomorrow to satisfy this most unexpected craving.
Last night Richard Price read to a large crowd at the Alley Theatre in downtown Houston. Having read—with difficulty—in the Fall 2007 issue of The Paris Review (N0. 182) the Lush Life excerpt "Night Fishing on Delancey," I anticipated the reading mostly out of love for The Wire, for which he wrote screenplays during his hiatus from novel writing.
How can I describe the reading to you? Richard Price has curly hair and is wearing jeans and brown shoes. He steps onto the beautiful stage, the stage set for "The Man Who Came to Dinner," stands behind the podium, wood. Lots of dark wood, Oriental rugs, appropriately, or oxymoronically scholarly. He gets right to it—tells us what we need to know to be able to, you know, get into what he's going to read—three escalating interviews conducted by a couple of detectives trying to solve a murder that takes place on the Lower East Side of Manhattan—Matty (Irish) and Yolanda (Puerto Rican). I imagine The Wire's McNulty and Greggs the whole time, of course. So does my good friend who sits to my right.
Richard Price does voices, sort of. Listening to Richard Price read—granted, his own dialogue—was a little bit like riding on the back of an old boyfriend's blue bicycle (you know, standing up, fingers and toes holding on tight) through the dark streets of Kensington, Brooklyn, late at night. You're sure you're gonna lose hold, fall off, but you don't. With Price, you're sure you're gonna get lost in the dialogue any second, but somehow you're able to hang on, and part of you wants him to go on for a little while longer than you know he's gonna go. When it's over, part of you thinks, He practically read the entire book. But you know he didn't. And now you want to read what he didn't read and what he did read—all of it. Originally you thought you'd like it because it's set in your old neighborhood (of a year), because Berkman's is totally Schiller's. But those details are nothing next to this reading that might be the best one so far in your twenty-five years. It surprises you. (You did love the Congee Village nod, where you, too, have had something comparable to a mojito. You also loved the part about real versus fake absinthe, because you've had that conversation enough times that it's become one of those annoying things that people talk about and can everyone please just shut up. And the part about a summer program—weren't you there, too? RISD Pre-College Summer 2001?) P.S. Richard Price hates people your age (and "hipsters"), or anyone younger than him, for that matter.
Afterward, when Richard Price is asked about the difficulty of writing dialogue (not difficult at all, Price says), he refers to the dialogue he writes as a "heightened reality," which, yeah, it is. It's what I live for.