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NNNNN by Carl Reiner

NNNNN

By Carl Reiner

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-8669-3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A writer struggles with a unique case of multiple-personality disorder in this farce, the first novel in over a decade from veteran screenwriter, director and actor Reiner (All Kinds of Love, 1993).

Middle-aged author Nat Noland doesn’t just talk to himself—he has extended, vociferous debates with himself, and that has understandably begun to trouble his wife, Glennie. That problem, combined with the fact that his fifth novel is turning into a blasphemous rewrite of Genesis, prompts him to call in a psychiatrist, Dr. Frucht, for some mental repair work. (Noland dubs each novel-in-progress “N,” making his fifth novel “NNNNN.”) The “empathologist” across the hall from Frucht, Dr. Gertrude Trampleasure, further upends Noland’s world when she tells him he looks remarkably like the man who broke her heart when she was a schoolgirl. Investigating further, Noland learns that he is, in fact, a triplet. His father, a greedy and detestable orphanage owner, seduced a traveling showgirl and convinced her to give the baby up for adoption; when she balked shortly before going into labor, he ran her car off the road, killing her, then performed a c-section to save the infants, which he sold separately to wealthy clients. At first glance, that’s not exactly fertile territory for a breezy comic novel, but Reiner has the right idea—the setup anchors the story and lends some legitimacy to the loopy subplots that follow (cases of mistaken identity are rampant). The final plot twist threatens to make the tale feel completely untenable, but like any self-respecting farce author, Reiner capably ties the various plot points together.

A slim bit of dialogue-heavy, lightweight fare that strains believability but gets a surprising amount of mileage out of its absurd premise and characters.