A postmodern tale full of all the necessary self-referential observations, yet haunted by an old-fashioned pursuit of the meaning of life, Coover's latest (Gerald's Party, A Night at the Movies, etc.) takes the Pinocchio story and gives it an ending that is both moving and satisfying. Pinocchio, now an old and respected professor and winner of two Nobel prizes, comes to Venice, where his story began, to look for the final insight that will complete his magnum opus, Mama, his great tribute to the Blue Fairy. He is also ailing, turning back into wood. and daily losing more and more of his human features. Present-day Venice is as corrupt and venal as it was in his childhood, and in his search for the Blue Fairy, who had taught him the value of goodness, he meets many of his old companions--both good and bad. It is a journey to his past, with all the old lessons having to be learned again. Pinocchio is robbed on the first night by the Cat and the Fox in disguise; is rescued by the old dog Lido, and then taken in and cossetted by his former schoolmate Eugenio. Every day is carnival, and as Eugenio takes Pinocchio daily through the debauched throngs, Pinocchio reflects on his lifetime pursuit of truth and beauty, and begins to fear not only that the search has been in vain but that he has often failed to live up to the Blue Fairy's wishes. Although betrayed again by Eugenio, Pinocchio's old puppet comrades take him in--and, dying, he finally finds the Fairy. Colorful, bawdy, and wise-cracking: a modern fairy tale in which good and bad do battle on every page and the pure in heart triumph. At times overshadowed by too much action and clever talk, the novel nonetheless remains surprisingly affecting.