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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[…]

Price prefers the old New York.

Question: Are there places in New York that you keep coming back to?

Richard Price: There are a lot of places I’ll never go back to like Times Square. It’s easy to get sentimental about a cheesy neighborhood that’s sort of turned sherbet pants, tourist safe, like everything is Lion King, Lion King, Lion King. I hate it. I don’t want to romanticize the scumminess of what it was in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But if I had to choose, I’d choose that. I’d choose all those guys wearing glen plaid, bell bottom pants and big afro bushes and tight leather jacks, peep shows. Even actual bookstores were in that neighborhood. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. I remember I was five years old. My grandfather used to take me to a place called Grant’s which I think is where the New Amsterdam theater is. There’s this big bar that had sawdust on the floor. I didn’t even know what was going on. I was just spinning on the wheel and he was getting hammered. But yeah, Times Square has always pulled me and now, when I look back on it, coming out of a play, I go through it. I feel like I’m in Tokyo, the Ginza strip or something. I also feel like I’m in Peachtree Plaza. Or it could be anywhere. The whole thing of Times Square right now is this big beeping, blaring message, “It’s safe, it’s safe, it’s safe.” Maybe things are better not so safe. Lower East Side, once again, you can get sentimental about the fact that there were lines of heroin addicts going up to one apartment on Forsyth Street that now goes for $2 million, junkies versus yuppies. The thing to remember when people talk about how bad it was back then -- and it was bad; Alphabet City was terrifying -- for every kid getting in trouble, there was a kid in Seward Park High School who was graduating. The kid who graduates from Seward Park High School and gets a job is not newsworthy so you only know about the kids who kill or be killed. So there’s a very quiet, ongoing culture there that they’ve got to pull up stakes pretty soon.

Recorded On: 3/3/08