I am a mess, but I am alive"" trumpets one mad saint in this exhausting and messy novel about Search and Glory and Life. It extends, roughly, from the pre-World War II era to the '50's. To be alive, apparently, at least in literary terms may be accomplished in a noisy, ""proletarian"" fashion by introducing a world full of crud and existentialist losers. Hero Joe Berg is heir to a line of nuts the sheer awfulness of which defies belief. His grandmother likes pornography; his mother is hooked on get-rich schemes; his father, a taxidriver, writes dreadful plays; his grindingly shrill sister insists on living on Long Island; and there's a retarded brother Victor. Joe is succored only by the heroic frenzy of his grandfather (who commits suicide) and good old Dr. Garfinkel who, like the good old docs of this type of novel, is eating himself away on the inside while doing good on the outside. In the visceral incoherence of Joe's thoughts, we conclude that he read everything from Dostoevski to Proust, fought in the war watching the gallant die or go crazy, came home to mathematics and a gift called Rita, and at the close gave a madman back the priceless possession of his madness. Although Joe can never leave the imperative of the past and his quest for greatness, he is, after all, ""an inhabitant of the world."" With no paragraphs, no question marks, the Search is endless.