Why "Jonathan Ames" is "Jonathan Ames"
I should tell you that I named the character after myself for two reasons: (1) it was wish-fulfillment, a playing out of my fantasy to be a detective, and (2) whenever I write non-fiction, people say to me, "You made that up, didn't you?" and when I write fiction, people say to me, "You really did that, right?" So I thought I would confuse everyone, myself included, and write a piece of fiction with Jonathan Ames as the narrator. This was going a step further than what I had done in my then recently completed graphic novel, The Alcoholic, in which I named the character "Jonathan A."
So I wrote the story in January, then adapted it into a television show, and now two-and-a-half years later, Jason Schwartzman is playing "Jonathan Ames." I mean, this is all very strange. I may have created my own version of Being John Malkovich.
I, myself, am starting to lose track of what's real and what's not — what has actually happened in my life and what I've made up. Like all writers, I'm a fabulist, even when I tell the truth, because language distorts everything. Silence seems to be the only real truth.
But what is truth or reality, anyway? In my scant study of Buddhism, mostly conducted by reading pithy but helpful statements attached to bags of Yogi Tea, I have come to see all of life as some kind of mad illusion that we each manufacture. In one of my scripts for "Bored to Death" I had Ted Danson's character, George, say, "All of life is an illusion, so we might as well make it a good one." For some reason, I cut that line, but I restore it here.
About adapting the story into a television show, let me say a few things. To flesh out Jonathan Ames's world, I created two friends for him, George Christopher (Ted Danson) and Ray Hueston (Zach Galifianakis), and I changed the Jonathan character to be more of a younger version of myself, someone who is struggling to write a second novel, just as I struggled for nine years between my first and second books.