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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Lush Life by Richard Price

Lush LifeI normally don't mix my book reviews with this blog, but this book blew me away.
 
Lush Life by Richard Price
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a novel that I couldn’t recommend too highly to anyone who would love it as much as I did. To anyone who wouldn’t appreciate this rather long, rambling police procedural I would advise them to take a pass, if this makes any sense. If you didn't like this book it's not like you failed some sort of IQ test, I totally get it if you didn't. I did, a lot, like why didn't this win the Pulitzer back then? Because it's the wrong genre?

If your idea of a great novel doesn’t involve a 100 page interrogation scene, then this isn’t for you. I would have never thought this would make for compelling fiction until I finished it, but once I had I think that I was overwhelmed by the sheer audacity of the passage, like I had just seen some sort of magic trick. How did he do that?

If you’re looking for a crime novel, you probably didn’t have this book in mind. There is a crime and great efforts are made to solve the mystery, but the murder is water under the bridge. Does it even fucking matter who did it? Ike will still be dead and his father still blind with grief.

I won’t mention how great Price is at writing dialogue since everyone else does that, and his dialogue is so great that I don’t even feel qualified to praise it, but he’s has an uncanny ability to sum up a situation with a single phrase and he does this so many times in the novel and many times I had to stop reading to soak it in, like someone dumping the clutch and stalling out. You find one in this lengthy sentence describing the crime:

De hecho, se disponía ya a recuperar la pistola, a quitársela a Tristan de la mano agarrotada, cuando de repente, pum, demasiado tarde, el tipo, con una bala en el pecho, levantaba la vista por el impacto como si lo hubiera llamado alguien desde una ventana, luego caía sin volver a bajar la mirada siquiera, y Tristan se agachaba junto a él en el acto, como para darle un bocado en la cara, exclamando en un susurro «¡Oh!», al mismo tiempo que Little Dap exclamaba en un susurro «¡Larguémonos!» y se lo llevaba de allí a tirones, y entonces volaron los dos hacia el sur por Eldrige, corriendo tan deprisa hacia los Lemlich que Little Dap veía las persianas metálicas de las tiendas a los lados convertidas en un borrón.

The two detectives are probably too clever for their own good, and they proved it when they leaned on Eric Cash for the murder, going all in from the first few questions at the crime scene. They run their games on the kid and go all out until his friend wakes up from his stupor, corroborates, and they realize that they’re back at square one.

The narrative quickly spiders out like glass shattering. Survivor’s guilt? The remorse of bad fathering after it's way too late? While Yolanda whispers hope to anyone who she feels needs a push in the right direction, a pitiless investigator with a heart. To have heart to spare in her line of work is quite an accomplishment.

I read the Spanish translation by Carlos Milla Soler which must have been a monumental task. Chapeau to him. The audiobook narrated by Bobby Cannavale is a minor masterpiece in itself. He brought this novel to life like I have never heard before, much like Price brings this corner of Manhattan to life for the reader. Dialogue is sort of the private domain of Richard Price and for my money no one writes it better, so a really great audiobook is warranted here. It’s like Cannavale put in at least as much effort as the author in pulling off his performance.

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