My Writers: Richard Price

75356dca71d1147593932506177444341587343

There was a time in mid-nineteen-nineties — before my energy started to flag — when I actively sought out books that I knew were on their way to becoming potentially significant feature films. This was especially common, weirdly enough, after I no longer had a public outlet to review films, meaning I had no particular impetus — no mandate, imposed or otherwise — to fill in the background. Freed from the burden of collegiate assigned text, I felt I had the time (though I was routinely working well over forty hours per week) and I maintained a hangover principle from my time as a film critic that if I were going to have an opinion, it should be an informed opinion. However, while I held tight to this conviction, I also had meager amounts of money, putting me at the mercy of the stocking opportunity and practices of local used bookstores. This was the convergence that put Richard Price’s Clockers in my hands.

I knew a little something about Richard Price at that point, entirely from his gutty screenplays for Sea of Love, the 1992 remake of Night and the City, and Mad Dog and Glory. His novel Clockers, a thick brick of a book, was met with widespread acclaim, but the 1992 tome brightened its blip on my radar when Spike Lee was announced as the director who’d helm the adaptation. Besides the fact that Lee was still a formidable cinematic presence at the time, the pending film was fascinating and significant as the filmmaker’s first real attempt at interpreting someone else’s creation. Even Malcolm X, officially based on the fiery activist’s autobiography co-written with Alex Haley, seemed to well up straight from Lee’s very soul. Clockers was going to be different. It was going to require Lee, at least to a degree, to speak in someone else’s voice.

And it was a helluva voice. The novel Clockers is fierce and masterful, alternating between police detective Rocco Klein and street corner drug dealer Ronald “Strike” Dunham as a bleak Jersey City neighborhood reels from the murder of another local cocaine peddler. Unlike other authors with a skill for immersing their works in seedy criminal activity, Price comes at the story with a distinctively empathetic approach. He relates the particulars of the story with pinpoint precision, keeping the shifting allegiances and swirl of parceled-out revelations clear. The procedural tracking through the plot is necessary but hardly the point. Instead, price takes an notably humanistic approach, coming at his characters with an almost sociological attentiveness. While there’s an undeniable element of whodunit to the story, Price is more invested in explicating just how a community’s wounds can roil and blister to the point where extreme violent choices can seem like reasonable, if unfortunate, acts of self-defense.

Lee does his best with the film version, but Price’s work is ultimately too emotionally rich and intellectually complex to fairly condense into a couple hours worth of celluloid. Even though the author has had plenty of his own direct experience with film endeavors (included, to be clear, a co-screenwriting credit on Clockers), he belongs on the page, which better serves his propensity for deep dive considerations of all the contradictions that fuel the most self-destructive impulses that crackle through modern life. I haven’t followed him with the greatest of devotion, but every time I’ve opened one of his books I’ve found the same smart, sound, thoughtful worldview. No matter how I got to him the first time, I’m grateful I did.

Previously…
An Introduction
Margaret Atwood
Anne Tyler
Michael Chabon
Ian McEwan
Don DeLillo
Stephen King
John Steinbeck
Donna Tartt
Jonathan Lethem
Bradley Denton
Zadie Smith
Nick Hornby
Kurt Vonnegut
Thomas Hardy
Harlan Ellison
Dave Eggers
William Greider
Alan Moore
Terrence McNally
Elmore Leonard
Jonathan Franzen
Nicole Krauss
Mike Royko
Simon Callow
Steve Martin
John Updike
Roger Angell
Bill Watterson
William Shakespeare
Sarah Vowell
Douglas Adams
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Clive Barker
Jon Krakauer
John Darnielle

Tagged with:
Posted in Film
9 comments on “My Writers: Richard Price
  1. […] Previously… —An Introduction —Margaret Atwood —Anne Tyler —Michael Chabon —Ian McEwan —Don DeLillo —Stephen King —John Steinbeck —Donna Tartt —Jonathan Lethem —Bradley Denton —Zadie Smith —Nick Hornby —Kurt Vonnegut —Thomas Hardy —Harlan Ellison —Dave Eggers —William Greider —Alan Moore —Terrence McNally —Elmore Leonard —Jonathan Franzen —Nicole Krauss —Mike Royko —Simon Callow —Steve Martin —John Updike —Roger Angell —Bill Watterson —William Shakespeare —Sarah Vowell —Douglas Adams —Doris Kearns Goodwin —Clive Barker —Jon Krakauer —John Darnielle —Richard Price […]

  2. […] —Doris Kearns Goodwin —Clive Barker —Jon Krakauer —John Darnielle —Richard Price —Art […]

  3. […] —Doris Kearns Goodwin —Clive Barker —Jon Krakauer —John Darnielle —Richard Price —Art Spiegelman —Anthony […]

  4. […] —Doris Kearns Goodwin —Clive Barker —Jon Krakauer —John Darnielle —Richard Price —Art Spiegelman —Anthony Bourdain —John […]

  5. […] —Doris Kearns Goodwin —Clive Barker —Jon Krakauer —John Darnielle —Richard Price —Art Spiegelman —Anthony Bourdain —John Irving —Oliver […]

  6. […] —Doris Kearns Goodwin —Clive Barker —Jon Krakauer —John Darnielle —Richard Price —Art Spiegelman —Anthony Bourdain —John Irving —Oliver Sacks —John […]

  7. […] —Doris Kearns Goodwin —Clive Barker —Jon Krakauer —John Darnielle —Richard Price —Art Spiegelman —Anthony Bourdain —John Irving —Oliver Sacks —John […]

  8. […] —Doris Kearns Goodwin —Clive Barker —Jon Krakauer —John Darnielle —Richard Price —Art Spiegelman —Anthony Bourdain —John Irving —Oliver Sacks —John […]

  9. […] —Doris Kearns Goodwin —Clive Barker —Jon Krakauer —John Darnielle —Richard Price —Art Spiegelman —Anthony Bourdain —John Irving —Oliver Sacks —John […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

April 2015
M T W T F S S
« Mar   May »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 362 other followers

%d bloggers like this: