Carl Reiner Proves He's Multi-Talented
By Carl Reiner
Simon and Schuster, 2006, $21
A story told within another story is as old as Shakespeare and the ancient Greeks, but this one has a twist. The hero of Carl Reiner's novel is an author whose latest work is a rewriting of the book of Genesis, from the perspective of Cain.
Nat Noland, the writer, also finds himself self-absorbed to the point that he has conversations with himself -- aloud. This eccentricity becomes so obvious that his wife, Glennie, urges him to see a psychiatrist.
Noland does just that, an experience that directs him to seek the origin of this curious introspection. Nat is troubled about the mystery surrounding his birth and his subsequent adoption into a loving family.
Reiner, a multi-talented icon of the arts, has combined humor with mystery and tossed in a generous serving of family pathos. You might call this a family fable.
Always looking for intriguing new names, Nat is on his way to the psychiatrist's office for their first visit when he spots a curious name on the building directory. A Dr. Jertrude Trampleasure is listed.
As it turns out, Trampleasure is correct but the first name is a misspelling of Gertrude. The woman is an empathologist, who likes Nat as much as Nat likes her name. It seems that he is the spitting image of her high school boy friend. She is so certain of their identical faces that she insists he must have a twin brother somewhere.
From that point, Nat is on a journey to uncover the truth about his parentage and find long-lost siblings. It's a mystery with multiple solutions, as it turns out.
Entwined within this tale of family and coincidence, spanning three or four continents, are excerpts from Nat's latest novel, "NNNNN," so named because of his penchant for names beginning with the letter N, just as his names begin with Ns. This is his fifth novel, thus five Ns.
In "NNNNN," Cain explores the world outside Eden, always with critical asides from his parents and brother, and finds himself attracted to other human creatures. It's humorous and human and, depending on your level of sensitivity, perhaps a little blasphemous at times. But then, the reader can be forgiving because, after all, this is Cain, not one of the great heroes of the Bible.
The reader can catch hints of similarity between the search for family and acceptance and enjoy the fun and the unapologetic coincidences.
Reiner is best known for his work in television, starting with The Dick Van Dyke Show, of which he was creator, writer and producer. He is also a comedian, actor, novelist, and film director. In 1999 he was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by the Kennedy Center and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
The 12-time Emmy Award winner made his most recent acting appearances in the films "Ocean's Eleven" and "Ocean's Twelve."
Reach Gilkeson at email@example.com.
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