Picaresque tale somewhat in the manner of Swift's Gulliver's Travels, by the author of The Hermetic Whore (1977) and Crash- Landing (1985). Running from the fearful wrong he feels he's done his half- sister Lucy, young Lemuel Grosz ponders his options and goes on the road. Spielberg offers a short tribute to Jack Kerouac as Lemuel grows up; there's a nice scene at the Grand Canyon. Now hailing as Mel, Lem returns to Manhattan and takes up with his landlady Connie, but what might have happened to Lucy still troubles him. So he hires a private detective who assembles an admirable dossier on the wrong Lucy. This Lucy is a masseuse, whom Lem invites to live with him as his long-lost sister. She promptly seduces Connie, sending poor Lem on the road again, abroad this time. Meanwhile, we drop in on the true Lucy, happily married in a gentrified section of Brooklyn, untroubled, unconcerned about Lem. The plot meanders through the rest of Lem's life, when at last he learns the truth about Lucy. The truth is slippery, comes in several versions, and doesn't change anything. Spielberg's mock solemnity is often amusing, particularly as it concerns Lem's sexual innocence, but perhaps the most original effect here is implied in the title: All the scenes are written as if heard secondhand or recalled after the fact. Even Spielberg's US, for instance, is a distant country, as if the account had been translated several times from the original description. But what was daringly surreal in 1974, with Spielberg's Twiddledum Twaddledum, seems mannered now. His latest has wit but little substance; it goes down pleasantly but doesn't add up to much.