I've got a "hard-on" for Seth Greenland's debut novel, The Bones. Although I've got a couple of bones to pick with it -- oh, the hell with my insipid punning. If you really want to delve into a funny one -- one that takes you deep into the heart of sunniness known as Brentwood, the land of cosmetic surgery and people who fly their private jets to Save the Rain Forest benefits, the land of hard-bitten ex-comics who loathe themselves just slightly more than they loathe the rest of us, well, Greenland has it nailed. (Ooops, sorry.) I just finished reading a bunch of Evelyn Waugh -- maybe I'll write about that later -- and I am happy to report that, in a very real way, Greenland does a Waugh to L.A. And that is good. Very good.
Now for the obligatory "what's it about"? It's about Frank Bones -- a comedian's comedian who has a nasty substance abuse habit and shoots guns at the most inappropriate times. He is the very definition of "not ready for prime time." (Which, for some reason, reminds me of a story I heard someone once tell about seeing John Belushi at a fancy La La land boite -- was it Spago? -- and, as I recall, Belushi was taking all the food off his plate, and everyone else's, and shoving it all into his mouth, then tilting his head back and using the blunt edge of his fist, literally cramming the gob of food into his gullet a la a trash compactor. Not ready for prime time. Anyhow...
So, as I was saying, this Bones (he sometimes, when he's feeling really indignant, which is often, refers to himself in the third person as "The Bones"), gets cast as an Eskimo in a prime time TV sitcom -- along with his recently mammarally (sic) enhanced girlfriend. That alone would be funny, but Greenland throw another character into the mix, a self-loathing comedy writer, Lloyd Melnick, who has secured a mega-zillion dollar writing deal at a network whose name is a small fox-like creature (The Lynx Network) -- oh, and did I mention Melnick rose to his heights by lucking into writing for a show featuring a bright-toothed comedian (Phil Sheldon, uh-huh) who made observations about really dumb things like "what do they call those plastic things on the end of shoelaces?" Any resemblance to any character living or dead is thoroughly intentional -- enter the lit-crit term roman a clef. A fancy way of saying, it's a hell of a lot of fun playing guess the creep as you read this. Needless to say, Lloyd and Frank have many strange contretemps, and hilarity ensues.
That's the part where I have the bone to pick. For some reason Greenland takes the beginning, the first 200 or so pages, of the best book on contemporary life I've maybe ever read and tacks a kind of Hollywood last hundred and fifty or so pages on it. Now, Greenland is a Hollywood scribe -- and his book has been optioned by none other than David Mamet (ENVY ALERT) -- but still, that part dinged a little hollow. But don't let it turn you off. And before I depart, here's something from the book to whet your appetite for this most excellent diatribe. Here's a bit where the big network exec, Harvey, has taken Bones aside on the set of the Eskimo show and asks him to stay off drugs. Now, understand, Frank has been smoking crack most of the morning in his trailer at the time:
"Frank. Let me be very clear, okay? It's not about morality. It's about money. Lynx has a lot of dough riding on this project. We think the show could be very successful, and with this focockta walrus, who knows? The sky's the limit! You see where I'm going with this?"
"Is it some kind of pep talk?"
"Sort of, but not exactly. What I'm asking, Frank, is for you to give me your word that you're gonna stay clean through this process. Let's get the show on, let's get the good numbers, and when the whole thing is over, you can buy a house in Colombia and snort up the whole fuckin' country for all I care, okay? When we're in syndication, you can take the city of Bogota and shove it up your fuckin' nose. But right now, you gotta be a good boy."
Oh, the walrus referred to above is a stuffed, plush toy Lynx has made a deal to give away as a promotion at a fast food joint to promote the show, and get royalties. Ah, Belushi. R.I.P.!!!
'Til next time...
Mr. Krimstein is a writer, cartoonist, father, and grump who lives in New York City. So there.