Seth Greenland really knows how to take a mild-mannered Van Nuysian and put him through the ringer. Pity Marcus Ripps, the hero of Greenland's new comic novel, "Shining City." He's a husband and father who is ripped from middle-class complacency when his job gets tossed to China and he inherits a dry cleaner that fronts for a prostitution ring. For Marcus, it's Guangdong or pimping, and on top of that he has a bar mitzvah to throw.
"Shining City" features a stream of hilarious bit players, such as the Samoan hit man who's studying the Torah and finally has to leave L.A. because it's just too crazy.
Greenland, an Angeleno whose first novel ("The Bones") was another fantastical Hollywood cautionary tale, is also a playwright and screenwriter. He's a satirist who takes glee in the disconnect between our familiar, sunny city and the desperate times in which we live. His tone is infectious. What else can we do but laugh?
"Shining City," Bloomsbury USA, 320 pages, $24.95