Harman Writer-In-Residence, Fall 2010
photo by Ralph Gibson
In his self-penned biography, Richard Price, elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and author most recently of Lush Life, speaks of his upbringing and the influences on his writing: I come from Bronx housing project stock, 1949-1969, four years upstate for college then back to New York ever since. I write about where I came from, what has happened to where I came from, the old working class, the new working class, the strivers, the hustlers, the gifted and the lost.
Eight novels now, ten produced films, and a television series and that’s all I want to write about when I’m allowed; people living in the urban trenches of New York. Maybe Baltimore if I have to.
As a kid, I had to learn that my personal experience was valid grounds for literature. So much of what I read as a student had nothing of me in it, what my eyes and ears informed me was the world. And then I discovered James Baldwin and Hubert Selby when I was 16; ‘city’ writers whose medium was cement and el train and storefront church and playground, who imbued the urban everyday with jazz and juice; whose books weren’t just laid down like a reporters notes but written, lyrical and heartful. Books that had style.
That was what was given to me by these writers and that is what I want to pass down; the gift of recognition, the gift of connection.
“Before the film festival it had just been them, a few guys making movies at the tail end of the seventies in the tiny village of Downtown, barely out of college and cozy in their innocent superiority. But Cannes blew everything up overnight and he just wasn’t prepared for it; the scale, the pressure, the attention, but even more than that, they had scared him, his friends, his crew, because it seemed that the more frenzied everything around them became the calmer they got. They were like resting panthers watching a slow meal coming their way, they were so up for it and he simply wasn’t, just didn’t have it in him and so ran away. Ran, eventually, all the way upstate to teach.”
–Unpublished outtake from Lush Life