A fair-enough stab at Rothian (or, perhaps more accurately, Bellovian) comic portraiture intermittently enlivens this overlong story of an aging TV producer, lover of women, and possible murderer: the eponymous Barney Panofsky, a kind of lower-case Mickey Sabbath or Augie March. A lifelong Montrealer (and devoted fan of hockey's Les Canadiens), Barney is penning his own story as he's about to be ``outed'' for his various disgusting personal traits and disgraceful (when not outright criminal) behavior--the outing to be done by his former friend, successful popular novelist Terry McIver. ``I have my principles,'' Barney protests. ``I have never handled arms, drugs, or health foods.'' What he has handled are three long-suffering (and, to differing degrees, insufferable) wives: the high-strung Clara, a poet and suicide, who becomes a feminist saint; the unforgiving shrew whom Barney refers to only as ``the Second Mrs. Panofsky''; and, best of all, the gentle and charming Miriam (whom--let's be fair about this--Barney met and fell for during his second wedding ceremony). Aside from marriage, his life is pretty much taken up by the demands of his company, Totally Useless Productions, which churns out highly popular and instantly forgettable mass entertainment (``Had I suspected I would survive to . . . sixty-seven,'' Barney muses, ``I would prefer to have earned a reputation as a gentleman, rather than a ruffian who made his fortune producing crap for tv''). We hardly believe him, but that also hardly matters, in a fast-paced, foulmouthed, generally entertaining romp that unfortunately grows tiresome whenever Richler lets Barney drone on about his literary loves or pet hates (feminists, antismoking activists, the annoyingly middlebrow Terry McIver, and QuÇbeáois separatists, among many other targets) or alludes coyly to characters from his own earlier novels. The result pales beside such Richler triumphs as The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1960) and St. Urbain's Horseman (1971), but it's a pretty decent comic novel nevertheless.