This comes on like the hip fairy tales on TV -- the best ones -- with that constant finger-popping humorousness. But it is a real fairy tale and that is how it affects you -- the men in the black capes especially, although there is also intrigue, love and danger. And if that isn't enough, it's 'being retold' in one of those elaborate narrative setups that gets things going on more cogitative levels. The story is supposed to be the old Florinese classic that Goldman's father (a disappointed old Florinese immigrant) read while Billy was getting over pneumonia. Now it's years later and Billy, a successful author married to a child psychiatrist, tries it on his own son who is eating compulsively. The effect is not the same somehow, and Goldman, looking at the text himself for the first time, understands why. The book was really a political satire! Dad, bless him, had skipped all that and just read the good parts. So Goldman is reconstructing dad's version, screw his son, because the good parts are what he likes. You only have to think of Barth and Borges and the uses they make of such tricks to appreciate how silly and really deeply likable this is. Because the story takes over and the whole point of everything is to ingratiate. As a last tease, you can read it as an allegory about America. There's a little too much distraction to be sure -- how, how much or even whether Goldman means it.