Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Price is right

My interview with Richard Price is up on the TONY site. You can check out the original piece as it appeared in print, as well as "director's cut" with deleted scenes—Price had a lot to say.

Ironically, my first question to him was about the fact that while reviewers praise the accuracy of his ear, it's doubtful said critics know what they're talking about: How can Michiko Kakutani, the NY Times' lead reviewer, know how drug dealers really talk and whether or not Price's dispatches from the projects have the ring of authenticity? (By the way, I included myself in this: It all sounds "authentic" to me, but how would I know? I have to watch The Wire with subtitles!) His response, in brief: He makes stuff up—as well he should, I might add.

Next thing I know, Kakutani's review of Price's latest, Lush Life, starts thus: "No one writes better dialogue than Richard Price — not Elmore Leonard, not David Mamet, not even David Chase. Not only does Mr. Price have perfect pitch for the lingo, the rhythms and the inflections of how people talk, but he also knows how to use a line or two or even a single phrase to conjure a character’s history and emotional vibe."

I can dig the remark about conjuring a history or a vibe, but unless she's been holdin' it down in Queensbridge (and not with Maureen Dowd), how would Kakutani know if Price has perfect pitch for the lingo of the homies and cops who make up a large percentage of his characters? Her info would have to come from books and films or TV. Simulacrum feeding on itself. How Barthesian.

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