16 Bananas

Hugh Gross, Author
Hugh Gross, Author Mid-List Press $12 (184p) ISBN 978-0-922811-21-2
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A lively tempo, sure-footed dialogue and an engaging protagonist make Gross's (Same Bed, Different Dreams) satire of Hollywood an enjoyable read. Packing his eight-minute student film, 20-something narrator Sheldon Green leaves Cleveland for Los Angeles with hopes of landing a directing job. After three years telemarketing photocopier toner cartridges, Sheldon's big break comes when he lands a job as a receptionist to a has-been movie producer (who is currently working with his brother, the parking-lot magnate) and gets the chance to develop a screenplay he calls ``the best screenplay anybody's written since Splash.'' Yet beneath Sheldon's bravado lurks a nerd with a loser roommate, who can't get a date, whose car is a lemon, whose improvisational scene in acting class involves ``three chickens, an onion, and a bag of carrots'' but who can still laugh at himself and is genuinely a nice guy. Along the way, Gross takes some well-deserved shots at blatant targets like director John Hughes's teen flicks, product placement and the Japanese takeover of major studios, but overall his send-up of Hollywood lacks sophistication and he's made Sheldon too appealing to be an effectively critical commentator. Yet even when Gross's satire falls flat, readers will still enjoy just hanging out with Sheldon. (Feb.)
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