The latest by the author of the witty The Thought Gang (1995), etc., is a disappointment of mind-numbing proportions. It reaches so far for comic effect that it stumbles badly and ends by seeming little more than a bland tale of frustration and confusion in matters of the heart. The gimmick is simple: Fischer tells his contemporary story in the voice of a pot--a ceramic bowl from Mesopotamia that's over 6,000 years old. The idea is that the object of collectors through the centuries now gets to turn the tables and comment on its owners, which makes this a sort of postmodern comedic comment on Bruce Chatwin's high modernist novel Utz. And that's the best one can say about the resulting strained narrative romp. The frame story concerns a young art appraiser named Rosa, a ""scrutinizer"" and diviner who can spot fakes in an instant and who can sense the complex histories of each object she fondles. This particular piece of ""pottery worth a lottery"" comes into her possession to be appraised for a ""lugal"" (the pot's term for wealthy collectors) of maniacal disposition. Meanwhile, a nympho-kleptomaniac connives her way into Rosa's life, performing acts of thievery (and sex) that are increasingly outrageous. But Rosa's mind is elsewhere: She falls under the sway of a columnist to the lovelorn whose advice lost Rosa her last boyfriend. Interspersed throughout this main story are the many tales imparted by the pot, itself a cracked narrator of bizarre fables involving its previous owners: the man who couldn't kill his wife; the spurned lover who couldn't succeed at suicide; the village called ""Arsehole""; the ship that sailed for Cathay but never left Venice; and Odile, the collector of insane poets. There's also a running joke about frozen iguanas. For all of its manic inventiveness--the wordplay, the rhymes, the new vocabulary--Fischer's goofy novel is a victim of its own cleverness.