three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
17-July-Aug-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-BonesSeth Greenland, a film and television writer, has created a larger-than-life character in Frank Bones, a rebel comic desperate to check out of his has-been hotel. After brandishing a firearm during a show, Bones tries to piece together the puzzle of his splintered life. He’s desperate for a job and, thanks to the Hollywood powers that be, somehow manages to land his own sitcom. But here’s the rub: he has to play an Eskimo and ride a mechanical walrus. The only way his project can succeed in the cutthroat business of television is if he solicits the help of long-lost pal Lloyd Melnick, the pseudo-writer of a hit comedy show. What sounds like an ecstasy-induced hallucination spontaneously plays out in Greenland’s zany fiction debut.
Bloomsbury. 393 pages. $24.95.
ISBN: 1582345503

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The Bones is a winning and endearing book, a laugh-out-loud satire and a page turner with a big-bang ending. … [The] novel to which The Bones is best compared is Mordecai Richler’s enduring masterpiece of middle-age angst and pop-culture meltdown, St. Urbain’s Horseman, and that’s the highest praise that can be bestowed on Greenland’s remarkable debut novel." Jonathan Kirsch

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"[H]e’s written one of the most perceptive and flat-out hilarious novels about the city’s brutal Darwinism, a book that makes you cringe through your laughter-induced tears. … Greenland elegantly avoids the usual Hollywood novel trap—he doesn’t dumb down or patronize his characters, and he provides them with pitch-perfect dialogue, the clipped, faux-avuncular patois of the tribe." Marc Weingarten

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"As concepts go, this isn’t exactly Gravity’s Rainbow. But it’s incredibly hard to write about comedy, and harder still to be funny while doing it. … The Bones is not a perfect novel, but Greenland has serious skills."
Michael Schaub

Baltimore Sun 3 of 5 Stars
"... for all of us who stand outside the dream machine, The Bones … embraces the satisfying if small-minded moral that fame, success, and unimaginable wealth do not necessarily lift the veil of loneliness and self-loathing."
Michael Ollove

Plain Dealer 3 of 5 Stars
"Fortunately, the book never pretends to be serious literature. It’s a fun romp with some simple lessons about taking risks and unmasking your pain."
Stuart Warner

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Most of The Bones (which, with kismet, has been optioned for a film version by David Mamet) aims for the lower realms of show business: the lucrative purgatory in which television wizards create sitcoms that they themselves would never dream of watching. … The Bones is a portrait of the artist who would never dream of choosing the road to recovery over the road to ruin." Janet Maslin

Critical Summary

Frank Bones, the oddball protagonist of The Bones, carries this clever story about moral misfires and tabloid celebrity in Hollywood. Bones, who addresses himself in the third person, is a comic dud anxious to reach beyond his C-list fame. Greenland weaves a clever, if not over-the-top, story about one man’s attempt to regain fame and another’s sideways journey to reap its rewards. There are bones to pick with this debut, though one may overlook such trivialities when realizing how difficult it is to avoid comedic repetition. Greenland almost gets away with it; however, much of Bones’s plot mimics the shtick of so many other Vineland-esque tales. Is it any wonder that he got the most love from California critics? In short, this is the literary equivalent of cotton candy—it is confectioned and colorful, but not terribly fulfilling.