BORED TO DEATH: Jonathan Ames as Literary Dick

Several years ago, one of my favorite blogs was “The Literary Dick”, run by Michael Wood but hosted by Jonathan Ames, and every few days there’d be some new and strange literary query which Wood would then investigate and provide results, no matter how bizarre. Ames, too, has been fascinated by detective fiction for a while, which eventually led to the short story “Bored to Death”, and now through a series of fortunate events, an HBO television series that premiered last night and stars Jason Schwartzman as “Jonathan Ames”.

I wrote about the new series in this week’s issue of Maclean’s, talking with Ames, Schwartzman and executive producer Sarah Condon about its New York sensibility, the specter of Inspector Clouseau – intended or otherwise – and why Chandler is Ames’ favorite crime novelist:

Within 20 minutes of the pilot, “Jonathan” morphs from a
commitment-phobic struggling novelist and magazine writer recently
dumped by his girlfriend Suzanne (Juno’s Olivia Thirlby) to an
unlicensed PI on the lookout—with suitably disastrous and cringe-comic
results—for the missing sister of a college co-ed who saw his ad on
Craigslist. The impetus? A frayed paperback of Raymond Chandler’s 1940
novel Farewell, My Lovely, Ames’s favourite Chandler novel. “Marlowe’s
the most romantic of private detectives out there,” said Ames, speaking
by telephone from Los Angeles, “and he’s someone a young man would want
to emulate more than, say, the Continental Op,” the tougher, far less
handsome detective created by Dashiell Hammett, another of Ames’s
favourite crime writers.

Read on for the rest, and also see Ames’ longer interview in the National Post and Nancy Franklin’s sharp review of the show for the New Yorker. After watching the first three episodes, I’m still not sure if, to use a well-worn cliche, BORED TO DEATH is going to play in Peoria, but I have to hand it to HBO for doing their best to try…