Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Richard Price, 'Bloodbrothers".

c. David Grim (taken 10/17/10)

Sometimes a descriptor such as "slight" is enough to kick me off the scent of a book. Obviously it's a pejorative. Yet somehow I don't feel like it completely precludes enjoyment, even when applied accurately. Richard Price's book "Bloodbrothers" feels slight, especially in comparison to "Lush Life"- the only other title I've read in the author's oeuvre. That work was ambitious, even if it didn't necessarily reach all of the tones I believe it sought. And it made me willing to explore more of Price's work. I ended up with "Bloodbrothers" because that's what I found at Half-priced Books. But it's quite obviously a lesser, earlier work.

Yes, I liked reading it. Price let his characters become caricatures at times, but they remained compelling enough to spend time with and worry over. I particularly felt for the plight of an eight-year-old named Albert. The boy has to contend with an absentee father who wants little to do with him, and an overweening mother capable of scaring the shit out of him with her own anxieties and emotional brutality. I knew I was falling prey to easy sentiment with this kid, but I really hoped he'd be alright in the end.

The problem is that Price's story just seemed to stop without any conclusions. The main character (Albert's older brother Stony) ends up capitulating to the trajectory of his family, and will likely just end up like his father and uncle. These are big, bruising, unsophisticated, womanizers who continue to work out of a blue-collar union tradition carved out by their forebears. While the business of building (they are contractors) retains a hint of nobility, the rot around the edges is clearly beginning to stain. These folks are hard-living and worn out by the severity of life around them.

If you like the idea of spending time with the working class, reading about their bouts of excessive drinking, whoring and fighting... then this book will satisfy your needs. Likely you will come to feel for someone in these accounts. Maybe you will be reminded of a family member, or even of a hard period in your own life. Price doesn't pull any punches. He'll show you the worst of people. And his dialogue is consistently compelling, making this a quick read. However, I don't believe that "Bloodbrothers" is going to stick with me very long. Perhaps a scene or two will linger in some shadowy way, but I wasn't transformed by reading this work.

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