cover image Continue Laughing

Continue Laughing

Carl Reiner / Author HarperCollins Publishers $19.95 (257p) IS

At its best, this wisecracking coming-of-age novel, a sequel to Enter Laughing, sparkles with the outrageous comedy and touching charm of the movies Reiner has directed (The Jerk; Where's Poppa? et al.). Cagey, raw, 19-year-old aspiring actor David Kokolovitz quits his upstate New York job as a sewing machine delivery boy, bids farewell to his Bronx girlfriend (whose middle-aged mother nearly seduces him) and joins a Shakespearean repertory company touring the Deep South of the early 1940s. An intrepid ``Jew from the North'' in ``the land of the Gentiles. Catholics, blondes, and crucifixes everywhere,'' David falls in love with fellow trouper Mary Deare Prueitt, a kittenish Southern belle who's pregnant by a man she doesn't love. Posing as her husband, David helps Mary Deare obtain an illegal abortion and also meets her obnoxious father, an Alabama senator who admires Hitler. The first half of the novel is ribald, high-spirited, shot through with priceless moments. But when Reiner moves on to David's tour of duty as an Army private and comic actor cheering American troops from Oahu to Iwo Jima, the narrative turns plodding and-given the novel's apparent semi-autobiographical nature-self-indulgent. (July)