I try not to have heroes. Sure, there are people I admire. But I tend to keep my expectations low. Lately, the skimpy ranks of my heroes has been reduced by one, thanks to the extra-curricular adventures of one Mr. Eliot Spitzer, hound dog.
But I do have a few literary heroes. Foremost among them is Richard Price, author of Clockers, The Wanderers and Freedomland. I read Clockers every year. It is the best American novel of the past generation. Yes, that’s what I think. I felt somehow vindicated when I heard that the finest American T.V. show in recent memory, The Wire, was in part based on or inspired by Clockers. Price has also written some of my favourite episodes of the show.
In spite of my mildly embarrassing hero-worship-tinged feelings, I didn’t dare to hope that Richard Price would be personally interesting or witty or any of that. And then I heard him on Fresh Air and again on the New York Times Book Review podcast. And holy crap if he isn’t hilarious, self-deprecating and thoughtful and possessed of a wonderful high-low way of talking and seeing the world that I could listen to forever. I’m getting a bit old for this sort of thing, but I would love to call him up and tell him I admire his work and ask him to lunch. You know, play the fresh-faced writer card, which is no longer an option due to, well, my face. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only fan he has. There is probably a steady stream of fresh-faced fans asking him to lunch and one has to consider the effects of such a rich diet on his temperament. It’s often best to leave our heroes alone for the sake of both parties.
So I won’t call him up or write him a letter. What I will do is lay some heavy hints on the people near me that my birthday is fast approaching. Richard Price has a new book out called Lush Life. If you wanted to get me something I will treasure, that’s it.
Along these lines, I finally bought myself Season 4 of the The Wire. I tried to hold out until my birthday, but I couldn’t. I just finished watching episode seven. Dukie just smiled. Kima cracked her first homicide. Prez is getting it right in the classroom. Bubs is having a terrible time. Omar’s in lockup. And my heart is busted.
This is what having heroes does to a person.