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Richard Price is a novelist and screenwriter. His books explore the urban world in a gritty, realistic manner that has brought him considerable literary acclaim. Price grew up in a[…]

By the time he was eleven, Price wanted to be a journalist, though he didn’t quite know what that meant.

Question: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Richard Price: Honestly, yes. I found sort of a graduation autograph book from 6th grade. I must’ve been 11 years old. You give it to all the kids in your class and it’s a “Good luck, you loser.” There’s a page where you fill out your hopes and dreams and for some reason, I wrote down journalist. I didn’t even know what a journalist was and I spelled it right. So yeah, I guess I did.No, I started writing in elementary school believe it or not. My grandfather was a factory worker but he also wrote poetry. He’s Russian. I would see his poems published on a mimeographed YMHA Journal in Brooklyn. This is in the ‘50s and I’d see this poem which I didn’t understand. Then I’d see his name in print and it kind of blew my mind. From that point on, I said I want to be a writer, too. It could be worse. He could’ve been a professional wrestler or an opera singer and then I really would’ve been screwed. I didn’t really think about “Why do I want to be a writer; what do I have to say?” until I was in my 20s. I think I just got by on sort of wit and facility with words. I didn’t think I had anything-- Who earlier than 20-something has anything substantial to say anyhow, but somehow, I just got sucked into that thing about wanting to be the writer. Every kid, when you’re a teenager, you have to have an ace in the hole. This kid, he’s the toughest. He’s the brain. He’s got the best hair. He’s the best dancer. He’s the writer but it was more gift wrapping than gift. I don’t think it was anything in my family. It’s a mystery to me. Nobody in my family is like me. My brother’s a vice president at Con Edison. He works in environmental affairs. My father is a cab driver. My mother was a bank teller. They’re all intelligent people but nobody displayed any kind of particular flair or humor or any affinity for Lenny Bruce or anything. It’s your basic, down the middle working-class nuclear family. I don’t know what happened to me.

Recorded On: 3/3/08