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Mr. Hollywood"" is Larry Lazar (nÉ Lazarsky)--a ruthless, sweet-talking, self-deluding writer/director, who bears more than a little resemblance to Greenfeld's onetime collaborator Paul Mazursky (Harry and Tonto); and this seething, uneven comedy is at its best when it unabashedly zaps Larry and the Hollywood scene with satiric venom. According to writer Max Isaacs (a Greenfeld stand-in, perhaps), ""auteur"" Larry is ""an evil phony, a congenital liar, and a dilettante prick."" According to Larry himself, he's an artistic purveyor of ""real reality,"" whose latest script--stolen from Max's idea--is a variation on The Turning Point called Remember, Remember. (Says a studio exec: ""Fucking your ex-girl friend's daughter is a nice theme. . . I like the concept. It's a high concept."") But, in the midst of selling this new project, Larry gets word that his vulgar, doting, annoying mother has died in Brooklyn. So most of the novel covers Larry's funeral-visit to N.Y.--where he sees old friends and relatives, cheats on his wife, snorts cocaine, and generally behaves abominably. The funeral itself is a black-comic treat, from the tough mortuary bargaining of Uncle Irving (""let's talk pine box"") to the rabbi who's more interested in Larry's royalties than his mother; and, though threatened by feeling once or twice, Larry manages to thumb his hose at the people in his past--including Mother, an old flame (""Fuck her!""), and an old bohemian chum who's now ""a druggie and a degenerative fag."" (One betrayed old pal, a writer tackily modeled on Philip Roth, threatens to beat Larry up--triggering a false-alarm heart attack.) On the other hand, Larry can also be saccharine-sweet--to a powerful critic a la Pauline Kael, to a beddable young beauty with screenwriting ambitions. (In a crude vignette, Larry lunches with both women, one of whom--which isn't clear--does some under-the-table genital fondling.) And finally Mr. Hollywood winds up back in L.A., essentially unchanged--though he's ultimately forced to admit that ""we all needed collaborators."" This sentimental fadeout, unfortunately, has little basis In everything that's gone before. Throughout, in fact, Greenfeld (A Child Called Noah) seems torn between writing an all-out hate letter and a more conventional sort of Jewish-identity-crisis novel. . . with shaky results: not tough enough for full-length satire, too nasty for warmhearted comedy. But along the way there's a steady supply of comic vileness and roman a clef sniping--to be savored, primarily, by those familiar with the Greenfeld/Mazursky history.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday