One must develop a certain obliquity of conscience, an elastic attitude toward the truth, to be effective in diplomacy.
The Price You Pay is entirely in the first person voice of Jack Price (pun intended and explicitly emphasized) and his immediate interlocutors, present tense, all internal monologue and external dialogue with not a quotation mark in sight, not even that em-dash alternative, and never a “he said.” Simple paragraph breaks and sparing direct address do all the heavy lifting of speaker identification, and they do it well.
Where plot is concerned, the book is a clear if remote descendant of John Buchan’s seminal “thriller” The Thirty-Nine Steps, although set in the 21st century with an elite coke dealer protagonist and a lot more collateral damage (also, no war propaganda). To the episodic man-on-the-run structure are added extra helpings of violence, plus the energy and ambivalent misanthropy of an early Chuck Pahluniuk novel.
“I am a fucking asymmetric criminal startup. I got limited expertise in criminal strategic warfare. I hotdesk and I outsource and I franchise but what I mostly have is a core concept, forward momentum and the unassailable fact that I’m crazier than a fibreglass hairball.” (73)
I don’t think this book has any socially redeeming value other than being twisted and funny as hell.
a prototypic American, one whose view of honor and dignity was circumscribed by lust for gain. He thought of Americans as a decadent people whose idea of refinement is fluffy toilet paper. Affluent children who race about their highways, playing with their CB radios, pretending to be World War II pilots. Where is the fiber in a people whose best-selling poet is Rod McKuen, the Howard Cosell of verse?
In its simplest form, actions performed for no measurable reason, or contrary to linear logic, might indicate such underlying motives as love or friendship or trust. But great care had to be exercised, because identical actions could derive from hate, insanity, or blackmail. Moreover, in the case of love, the nature of the action seldom helps to identify its motivational impulse. Particularly difficult is separating love from blackmail.
Above all, he came to recognize that all Americans were merchants, that the core of the American Genius, of the Yankee Spirit, was buying and selling. They vended their democratic ideology like hucksters, supported by the great protection racket of armaments deals and economic pressures. Their wars were monumental exercises in production and supply. Their government was a series of social contracts.