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Carl Reiner, . . Simon & Schuster, $21 (205pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-8669-5

The grand poobah of American comedy has authored the memoir My Anecdotal Life , several children's books and the autobiographical novels Enter Laughing (1958) and Continue Laughing (1996); here he checks in with a midlife crisis–fueled tale of a schlep's search for his origins. Nat Noland, a successful romance novelist, is hard at work on his latest book (of the same title as Reiner's), a spin on the Cain and Abel tale. When Nat's inner dialogue becomes a heated debate—between himself and, well, himself—his chipper wife, Glennie, signs him up with Dr. Frucht, a Viennese psychiatrist. Thus begins Nat's journey of self-discovery. Over the course of his cross-country travels, Nat, who was adopted, learns the incredible, lurid story of his birth parents—his dancer mother, Lena Lomax, and his father, Dr. Grimshade ("Calling that dung ball a dirty bastard is a compliment!... And so, shmucko, is calling that scumbag a dung ball!" Nat exclaims to himself). In New Orleans, Nat also finds his maternal grandfather, John Lomax. Slapstick cases of mistaken identity begin piling up, and tearful reunions ensue. Sloppy and speedy in a have-to-smile kind of way, this novel hits below-the-borscht belt. (Feb.)