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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Monday, March 3, 2008 11:43 am
Richard Price on Creative Labor Pains
Posted by: Keir Graff

I just can’t say enough about the novels of Richard Price. I really enjoyed Charles McGrath’s profile in the New York Times (“Sleepy-Eyed Writer, Wandering Byzantium“). Talking about his new novel, Lush Life, Price sounds almost as good in person as he is on the page:

He added that he originally thought of writing a historical novel, one that would dramatize the experience of the immigrant Jews who thronged the Lower East Side a hundred years ago. "But then I realized that’s probably the most well-documented immigrant movement in history," he said. "A guy comes over here, and his first job is working in a sweatshop. His second job is writing a novel about a guy working in a sweatshop. How am I going to do this better than Henry Roth did?"

And, for writers, some rich food for thought:

Another reason the book took so long is that Mr. Price felt obligated to the neighborhood – he wanted to get it right, all the chaos, all the texture – and wound up writing far too much. "I threw out 300 pages," he said. "Not voluntarily."

When he finally, reluctantly, showed the manuscript to his editor, he explained, it felt less like a submission than an intervention. "There was just so much here," he said, "and I fell in love with everything. I had two novels. It was as if my novel had had a novel. Congratulations, you’ve just had a nine-and-a-half-pound novel!" He shook his head and added, "You never really learn how to write a book, because every one is different."

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