Comedy is not pretty for either writers or performers in playwright/television writer Greeland’s exuberant, massively untidy first novel.
Frank Bones has been the reigning bad boy of American standup for ages, but he’s never scored with a wider audience. At 48, Frank still has the comic reflexes, the dark vision (“people are evil”) and the lovely live-in, Hot Ninja Bounty Hunters cult star Honey Call. But Frank wants more; he wants his own TV show, a series that’s all about him and no one else. The Lynx Network, however, doesn’t want to bankroll My Life and High Times; they want Frank to star in Kirkuk, whose head writer, Orson Dubinsky, promises to make it “an apocalyptic-spaghetti-noir half-hour Eskimo thing.” When golden Hollywood hack Lloyd Melnick turns down Frank’s groveling request to write a pilot for My Life and High Times, he sets in motion a plot that suggests Rube Goldberg in a wind tunnel. It’s obvious from the many barely disguised portraits of studio princelings and hangers-on in this roman à clef that Greenland has made some important discoveries about Hollywood: Stars and writers alike are really ambitious; they’re obsessed with money, sex, and power even when they’re trying to raise money for their pet charities; they’re all pitifully insecure; and the most successful of them aren’t necessarily the most talented. For the first two-thirds of his tale, Greenland floats some extremely funny one-liners on a cantus firmus drawn from Jackie Collins, Michael Tolkin, and Tom Wolfe. But a sequence barely adapted from The Bonfire of the Vanities sends Frank on a downward spiral to Tulsa, and the plot, juiced by a spectacularly unconvincing homicide, goes even further into deep space until it drifts out too far to recall.
An often hilarious kitchen sink of a debut, one more example of a satire providing new examples left and right of the excesses it thinks it’s condemning.