Friday, March 13, 2009

Lush lies

I'm not a fan of detective novels, mysteries, police procedurals. In my experience they're usually just not very interesting. There's a sameness. Every time someone urges one on me telling me that no kidding, this one's different, I find it, yep, the same as all the others. They're unimaginative. The writing is blah. All that aside, for me the main impediment to enjoying this genre is that for the most part the heroes are police.

In the real world, police are the furthest thing from heroes there is. Police are racist killers. Police are assassination squads occupying the communities where poor and oppressed people live. Police are the security force in the employ of the ruling class. At base, police are the capitalist state in its rawest form: armed might facilitating the project of capitalism, which is exploitation.

One of the unforeseen and, well, embarrassing, refrains of this blog seems to be how time after time I get snookered, hoodwinked, into reading a book that I shoulda oughta known wasn't for me. It's usually because of some combination of reviews, of which I'm generally wary since they're pretty much always imbued with bourgeois consciousness yet which still sometimes pique my interest, and friends' recommendations, which I really shouldn'ta oughtn'ta trust any more than the establishment literary critics but I foolishly do.

And so I spent the last two days reading Lush Life by Richard Price. Waste of time. A fast read, the guy can write, sure sure. At the end, though, what have you got? You've got a book in which the heroes are cops; in which every white middle-class character ends up alive, with a future, with hope; and every Black and Latino character (other than cops) ends up dead or futureless or hopeless; a book that pretends to be realistic and yet in which not a single cop ever lays a violent hand on a Black or Latino youth; a book in which every Black and Latino youth is a liar and a criminal of one sort or another. A book whose author clearly thinks he understands the oppressed, how they think, how they talk, how they live--whose narrative armors itself with a sort of faux compassion for people who nevertheless are, when you come right down to it, portrayed as so other, so exotically brutally icky, that the reader is set up from start to finish to identify only with the cops, with the murder victim's family and friends, and never, no how, no way, with the oppressed. What a mendacious, backward, upside-down view of reality and of who the real criminals in this society are. What a waste of two precious days of reading time.