Mono Kultur #45
Midway through Freedomland – the second of Richard Price’s three novels set in the fictional New Jersey city Dempsey – an ambitious local reporter scrutinizes the apartment of a mother grieving over the disappearance of her young son. The journalist runs her hand over ‘tapes, posters, tabletops, dishes’ for the ‘tactile connection’ they provide to the woman she’s studying. ‘She thought of all reporters,’ the novel goes on to say, as people ‘who were addicted to something she thought of as the Infilling – the compulsive hankering to witness, to absorb, to taste human behavior in extremis; the desire to embrace, to be filled with, no matter how fleetingly, the power of human grief; human rage; to experience it over and over; to absorb the madness of others, the commitment of others, the killers, the killed, the bereaved, the stunned, the liars, the fuckers, the heroes, the clownish, and the helpless. Jesse needed these people to come inside her, to give her life, a life, and she loved them for it.’
‘The compulsive hankering to witness’ would be a good description for the impulse that gives energy to Price’s nine novels and his numerous scripts for film and TV. Born in the Bronx in 1949, he studied at Cornell University and in the writing program at Columbia University. By the time he graduated from the latter in 1974, when he was 24, he had already published his first book of fiction, The Wanderers, a portrait of young gang members in a Bronx housing project much like the one in which he grew up.