Joseph Lindsey’s satirical Life to the Right of Hollywood takes us on an uproarious jaunt through the back alleys of the indie-film world to the scuzzy mosh pit of A-list Hollywood. His protagonist, Clinton Feast, is just another unemployed, self-loathing actor ensconced in a New York City fleabag hotel. The dump, inhabited only by a rat with a Red Sox cap ingloriously Krazy-Glued to his head, becomes his domicile of last resort following a humiliating breakup with his girlfriend, Meme. So far, so good.
The anger, guilt, and shame follows Clinton around like the rain cloud over Bad Luck Schleprock. Yet in the tradition of grand Hollywood satire, all these emotions literally explode out of him while auditioning for an adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Literally chewing the scenery lands him the lead. The lead, however, does not change into a giant bug but rather into a literal pile of shit (hence the adaptation title Turdmorphosis). Hilarity does, in fact, ensue as Clinton’s Method performance captures the buzz and he is propelled into Hollywood’s upper echelon. Alas, the combination of an ill-timed collision with Nicholas Cage during the Oscar telecast, and an evening of amnesia surrounding unruly drunken behavior, and Clinton’s careers ends as quickly as it begins. The nail in the coffin — he outs himself as a Conservative despite repeated warnings from his handlers. In Hollywood, it’s just fine to be a child rapist, a drug-addled fool, make slurs about gays and Jews, and be an all-around asshole, but it’s being a Conservative that’ll ultimately do you in.
Lindsey’s prose is almost too clever for its own good — almost. He pushes the wink factor right to the edge, but for anyone who’s experienced life in the entertainment industry, this won’t matter a bit. Many of the situations are nifty turns on what has already been endless parodied, so Mr. Lindsey also deserves props for his imagination. Then again, it doesn’t take much imagination for an actor to actually be made to feel like a pile of poop. Mr. Lindsey’s gift is that he actually carries this absurdity through from beginning to end. Admittedly, the constant unavoidable references to fecal matter will not win over those with delicate sensibilities, and there’s more than enough bathroom humor to go around. To that end, the material is an acquired taste (so to speak).
Nevertheless, Mr. Lindsey accomplishes a great deal with the material. Clinton Feast is ultimately just like the rest of us — a guy pursuing a dream being humiliated at every turn. That’s why we like him, and that’s why we care as much as we do — which is so difficult to achieve in satire. Mr. Lindsey is endlessly inventive, placing his protagonist in outlandish situations that are sometimes so ridiculous that one cannot help but laugh, and perhaps nod in agreement.
My only quibble with the book is a somewhat misleading title. There is barely any mention of Clinton Feast’s political leanings in the first 80% of the book. Dramatically, it is Clinton’s own self-loathing that is his real enemy — a facet more traditionally associated with the Left. His Conservative beliefs do not affect the drama until the end, when his behavior has already done him in.
But the criticism is a minor one, as Mr. Lindsey’s outrageous, no-holds-barred, repulsive, and shock-value storytelling carries us on a disgusting tour of the Entertainment Sewers.
Just don’t eat while you read.