In­side the core of the Ap­ple

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment -

HE HAS been de­scribed as “The Fonzie of lit­er­a­ture”, ref­er­enc­ing the iconic cool fig­ure whose black-leathered im­age tow­ered over the Happy Days TV se­ries. We all knew that the Fonz, as played by Henry Win­kler, was Ital­ian on pa­per but al­most cer­tainly Jewish in his heart.

Richard Price, a self-de­scribed “mid­dle-class Jewish kid” and au­thor of Lush Life ( Blooms­bury, £7.99), pulls off an ex­traor­di­nary trick: he presents the New York street in all its gritty, grimy, and oc­ca­sion­ally re­pel­lent seed­i­ness, while al­low­ing the reader to un­der­stand the many de­cent un­der­cur­rents which in­form and lead the life of the city.

As an Os­car-nom­i­nated screen­writer ( The Color of Money) and an award­win­ning writer of the hit TV se­ries The Wire, Price has a near-un­ri­valled ear for di­a­logue which makes his nov­els fairly sing off the page.

In Lush Life, his lead pro­tag­o­nist is restau­rant man­ager Eric Cash. Eric, some­where in his past, is Jewish: he is 35, has an un­fin­ished screen­play on the back burner — its theme, “any­thing about the Lower East Side in its hey­day, aka Jew­day...” — and is run­ning out of op­tions as to what to do next.

Ike Mar­cus, young, good-looking and cov­ered in tat­toos, turns up at Eric’s restau­rant and charms the pith out of the cus­tomers’ break­fast or­anges.

It all looks set to be­come a buddy movie, with Eric men­tor­ing Ike. But in Price’s skil­ful hands, Eric Cash un­rav­els. In the process, Ike Mar­cus is killed, street kids off their head on crack are im­pli­cated, and New York’s finest have a hell of a time work­ing out just who did what to whom.

Lush Life is the kind of book you don’t want to end but when it does you feel re­warded: it re­veals so much about a par­tic­u­lar world. In ev­ery sense, a jour­ney with Richard Price — funny, sharp and full of the ripest lan­guage — is a trip. JENNI FRAZER

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