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MONO.KULTUR #45: RICHARD PRICE / EXCERPT 03

Richard Price on Harlem, the setting for his next novel, and gentrification – excerpted from our new issue mono.kultur #45.

What’s your view on Harlem during the past ten years you have been living here? As with the Lower East Side, you are writing about Harlem at a time when it is undergoing a rapid transformation.

One of the detectives in the 32, the Harlem precinct, told me that the two greatest crime-fighters in this city are sheetrock and cranes. You have people living in Harlem all their lives, multi-generational, and all this new construction, all these new businesses—it’s not for them. Every time they see trees being planted, it’s not for them. It’s for the people who are coming. And they’ll be white, for the most part.

Michael Greenberg in the New York Review did interviews with a lot of tenants in Crown Heights, Brownsville, and East New York as the developers have been pouring in. And one woman who was getting forced out of her apartment on Schenectady Avenue told him, ‘We watched over this street, we cleaned it up. Why should we have to leave?’

In what city can you not give voice to that sentiment? There are homeowners who moved to Harlem at the worst of times, a black couple, say: their children are grown, they’re in retirement, and they live in a brownstone, yes—but they were here in the crack days. They were here in the heroin ‘70s. They were here through all of it and they held fast. And now they’re older, their children are gone, and they have less income. They might have bought that turn of the century brownstone for $30,000 in 1968 but now they can’t afford any more infrastructure repairs, so it’s probably in bad shape. Then someone knocks on your door and offers you a million bucks.

The buyers are mainly interested in the land rights so they’ll probably tear that place down—but how could you say no? The thing is, are they going to live in New York? Nope. They’re going to go back down south, because whatever they pay you to buy your place, that’s how much you have to get another. So everybody’s going back to Carolina. Virginia. Maryland. Harlem was enough of a moonscape during the very bad years, but these people kept it from being a complete moonscape. These are the people who kept churches in business and went to work every day. They were the stabilizers in a troubled, chaotic time. But real estate wants what it wants and that’s that.

Nobody I know who was living on the Lower East Side in 2005 could afford to live in it now. It was still a microclimate then. Starting in the 1970s, you had young people coming into a funky neighborhood because they’re young and want adventure in their life. They want to feel like they’re having an experience. They’re creative. And they enjoy the frisson of living in a down at the heels community. To walk down Orchard Street or Ludlow Street in 2003 or 2004 was really different; it was exciting because of the mix and match. Then when real estate people come in, they smell the espresso and it all goes to hell.

Original photography by Joseph Rodriguez

ALTERNATIVES IN PRINT: CIVILIZATION

Civilization is the latest gem masterminded by art director celebre Richard Turley – a maybe one-off maybe not newspaper about New York, possibly, even though it’s hard to say. What’s safe to say is that it is unlike anything else out there at the moment, and yet so undeniably now. Irritatingly or refreshingly text-heavy, depending on your point of view, Civilization is a ramshackle cut & paste assembly of interviews, writings, snippets and statistics on what it is to live in a city like New York today. It feels like a collection of these moments when you lift your eyes from the screen and see something unexpected or overhear a snippet of other people’s conversations, only to be swallowed by the next moment. Train rides, hangovers, sex and Balthazar croissants all feature prominently, sitting between crime stats and somewhat random observations, all held together by Turley’s surreal sense of humour. Civilization has the momentum and charme of the unfinished, as if it were put together in a week, even though most likely, every column has been vetted and fretted over in every detail. Or, as it says in the masthead: ‘All mistakes are deliberate, especially typos.’

MONO.KULTUR #45: RICHARD PRICE / EXCERPT 02

Richard Price on his work for Hollywood – excerpted from our new issue mono.kultur #45.

The Breaks was your last novel before you withdrew from books for some time.

That, for me, was the most egregious. If I squint, I can see what I did well, but what I did poorly is as big as an elephant. With The Breaks, I was trying too hard to just have another book out. It’s like, what are you trying to say with this book? I was trying to say, ‘I really want to be published.’ It was too panicky, too showy, had too much shtick. On top of which I was struggling with cocaine addiction at that time, which was like wearing a gasoline jacket to a bonfire.

That’s when you went to Hollywood?

Well, I’ve never been in LA for more than 72 continuous hours in my life. But yeah, I had a lot of offers to write scripts, so I started taking on jobs. People had been asking me to write screenplays since 1974, when The Wanderers came out—basically because my dialogue was so ‘authentic’. It’s nice to have a gift for dialogue if you’re a screenwriter, but it’s not that important. Actors will give you good dialogue. Even if you write, say, okay dialogue—if an actor is good, he or she will make it sound much better than it deserves. Good lines add zip on paper, but the key job of a screenplay is to provide a shapely narrative structure. It’s all about structure and momentum. Somebody once described a script to me as a pyramid. You have, say, three or four people at the base, and they all have to meet at the top in two hours. Some fall off the mountain, some get to plant a flag. That’s more important than good dialogue writing.

How does writing a screenplay compare to writing a novel?

There is no writing in a screenplay. You don’t write a screenplay. There’s no prose in a screenplay, no narrative, no internal dialogue. Basically it’s 120 pages of Post-it notes for the director and the actors. It’s two-dimensional. A book is four-dimensional. It takes you into the interior of the character’s thoughts, and has a narrative voice that can offer exposition. But a movie is two-dimensional. People say things and do things. End of story.

Original photography by Joseph Rodriguez

SPACE SHOW

Congratulations to Trevor Paglen for two simultaneous solo museum surveys, at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. and at Museo Tamayo in Mexico City. If stuck in Europe or elsewhere, you can of course always fall back on last year’s mono.kultur #44 with a lengthy discussion well worth reading.

Image: STSS-1 and Two Unidentified Spacecraft over Carson City (Space Tracking and Surveillance System; USA 205) by Trevor Paglen

MONO.KULTUR #45: RICHARD PRICE / EXCERPT 01

Richard Price on his idea of research for his forthcoming novel – excerpted from our new issue mono.kultur #45.

What kind of research have you been doing?

The research I do is the research I always do: I hang out. Every once in a while I want to talk to a particular individual, or to be present for a certain thing that’s happening. But basically it’s all about osmosis. I always quote Jimmy Breslin in his biography of Damon Runyon: ‘He did what all good reporters do. He hung out.’

In the late 1980s, when I wrote the screenplay for Sea of Love, I did ride-alongs with cops and I started seeing more of the world than I ever thought I would. Your first reaction is that your jaw drops. But then you need to get to that point where your jaw isn’t dropping anymore. In the beginning, everything you see is explosive. But you have to get past that until what you see becomes routine, and the nuances start to reveal themselves.

You lose that sense of wonder.

The sense of wonder never leaves me, but the truth of a place is in the small stuff, always the small stuff. So I’m out there with the neighbors, just hanging out, having conversations with people, seeing what pops for me.

Occasionally I’ll go to something I hadn’t planned on doing. It might be a church or a funeral service or a meeting open to the community. For example, I became friends with a guy, an ex-con, who runs a grassroots Stop the Violence organization. It puts together block rallies within a day or two on any street in Harlem or the Bronx where a shooting has gone down. He also has a contract with the city to conduct anti-violence workshops at the Bronx County probation office. I would go with him to both, again and again, until I had an understanding for the near hopelessness of his efforts. But I also gained an appreciation for the power of his optimism, in the face of the monumental personal despair and bureaucratic indifference he chose to confront. Talk about tilting at windmills. His relentless buoyancy was almost frightening.

For me, it’s all about discovering and understanding things that I wasn’t even looking for. But I recognize them when I see them, when I hear them. I need to be ever present. I love being out there more than anything else. At the end of the day I’m still writing fiction, but for me all the electricity is in the learning process.

Original photography by Joseph Rodriguez

SPANISH HARLEM

Our brandnew issue mono.kultur #45 with acclaimed writer and raconteur Richard Price is accompanied by stunning images by New York cab driver turned photographer Joseph Rodriguez, from a series called Spanish Harlem, documenting street life in the late 1980s with grit, intimacy and grain. As it happens, the series is currently on show at Galerie Bene Taschen in Cologne, featuring many images that did not make it into our issue. Needless to say, if in Cologne, we highly recommend to drop by.

Phootgraphs from Spanish Harlem by Joseph Rodriguez

HELLO GOODBYE

A note from our stock keeping department: We are onto our last boxes of mono.kultur #33 with the mighty Kim Gordon. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

MONO.KULTUR #45: RICHARD PRICE

Dear Friends,

mono.kultur #45 is our homage to the great mythical city that is New York. And who better to talk to about New York than Richard Price? The acclaimed writer gained international attention with novels such as Clockers and Lush Life, and his work for numerous films and television serials, including The Night Of and The Wire. But what he is really known for are his gritty observations of urban life and sharp ear for the rhythms of language.

While his books are usually filed in the crime section, they easily transcend all genres with their precise and tender depictions of New York life on street level. Embracing multiple perspectives, his novels dissect the clash of different realities within the same block, listening in on ‘the liars, the heroes, the killers, the killed, the stunned, the clownish, the helpless, the bereaved.’

When it comes to research, Richard Price adopts a hands-on approach: hanging out in different neighbourhoods, talking to strangers and going for ride-alongs with cops to see a darker side of the city. In many ways, it is this wide-eyed curiosity that allows his books to be read as time capsules of a New York in constant flux, revealing an uncanny understanding for knowing exactly what people want, need, envy and resent about the cities they inhabit.

In a conversation peppered with anecdotes and bebop, Richard Price talked to mono.kultur about the need to live in order to write, working for Hollywood, and why hanging out is a professional matter.

Visually, the conversation with Richard Price found its perfect sparring partner in a selection of images by cab driver turned photographer Joseph Rodriguez. And, just between us, we are proud to feature our very first ever foil embossed cover, in the honourable tradition of pulp novels.

Available as ever through our online store mono.konsum, or at the trusted book dealer of your choice very soon indeed.

Enjoy and all our best,
mono.kultur

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mono.kultur #45
RICHARD PRICE: NEW YORK A.M.
“I need to be ever present.”

Spring 2018 / English / 15 x 20 cm / 52 Pages
Printed on Two Different Stocks of Paper / Cover with Foil Embossing

Interview by Max Nelson
Photography by Joseph Rodriguez
Design by mono.studio

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MONO.KULTUR #45 / SOUNDBITE 03

THE FINAL WHISTLE

Our longtime collaborator (emphasis on loooong time) and programmer of our choice Christian Frey also happens to be passionate about two things beyond the screen: documentary photography and soccer. Both of which worlds merged in his ongoing project of documenting the Football World Cups since 2006, but on fan and street level. To be continued in Russia this summer, but before that, he will exhibit a selection of hilarious and somehow touching fan culture moments at Freelens Gallery in Hamburg, opening tonight.

Christian Frey
The Final Whistle
31. Mai – 9. August 2018

Freelens Gallery
Alter Steinweg 15
20459 Hamburg