“Bucky F****** Dent” by David Duchovny, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 294 pages, $26. You can usually guess who the real writers are. The number of current actors and actresses who fancy themselves novelists, poets and creative writers of one wort or another is not small. But you almost always have a good idea whom to drop from the list (let’s give Britney Spears an “A’for effort, eh?) and who deserves some honest attention.
With Woody Allen and Steve Martin atop the current list, the actors and actresses who have been assessed to have genuine literary selves in the 21st century includes Ethan Hawke, James Franco, Isla Fisher, Jessie Eisenberg, and most recently and surprisingly, Mary-Louise Parker whose “Dear Mr. You” is accounted a genuine original – a combination epistolary memoir and fiction.
If ever there was a writer’s sensibility screaming to be let out of an actor, it’s the one inside David Duchovny, with his masters in English from Yale and his film and TV scripts over the years (for “The X-Files” and the movie “House of D.”) He now gives us his second major book (see “Holy Cow” the eccentric first one was about a rebellious barnyard, which included a Torah-reading pig named Shalom.) Let’s remember that any actor who could play the reprobate writer in Showtime’s “Californication” is a man who knows a thing or two about some the pathologies of literary behavior in our time. His book here is about a struggling writer who earns his daily bread tossing peanuts to the crowds at Yankee Stadium and yearns for literary greatness to emerge from the yellow pads strewn over his bed. In the book, he moves back in with his dying father and, to keep the old man’s spirits up, tries to hoodwink him into believing in a winning Red Sox season in 1978.
It will surprise absolutely no one that all this sentimental father/son hoo-ha had its origins in a film script by Duchovny that was never made 10 years ago. At the same time, you’re knee-deep in the writerly idiosyncrasy on Page 3 of this. J.D. Salinger this isn’t. But it’s often an actor’s winning Salinger simulation on a page, attached to story that would have made a charming TV movie. – Jeff Simon