This fast-paced novel of Jewish manners by former Ms. magazine contributing editor and film-industry watcher Dworkin (Double De Palma, 1984, etc.; and Stolen Goods, a novel, 1987) starts out funny, grows passionate, complex, and ambitious, and ends on a tame, bitter note that leaves the reader wondering what all the fuss has been about. Its heroine is the conventional but tough-as-nails Mrs. Candy Shapiro, a Long Island doctor's wife, mother of two, homemaker, president of her Hadassah chapter, who's creamily fat, dressed from head to toe by Saks, and not going to take it anymore: She's discovered that her widely respected husband Marty is cheating on her with numerous women, and she's arrived at the Atlantic City hotel casino owned by her father's powerful old friend, mafioso Orpheo Pastafino, to ask for ``help and guidance.'' But she comes on a night of strange cataclysms, when brilliant stand-up comedian Heimlich goes into a trance and spouts a prophecy in Hebrew and loses his sight, just as a tidal wave rolls in, creating panic and destruction. Heimlich, a wonderful, crotchety, ironic man who's secretly in love with the casino's headlining star, Tina Turnerlike Alisette Legrand, gets shut up in a California hospice; and he and Alisette spend the next two years trying to find each other again, made especially difficult when Alisette is kidnapped and almost killed by a band of white supremacists. Meanwhile, Candy takes a lover, courts the friendship of an aspiring female politician named Carol O'Banyon, and, using her considerable organizational skills, arranges for a police raid on gunrunners keeping their contraband in her lover's rented house in Queens. Just as meaning promises to emerge from all of this, however (e.g., that women are the real soldiers in the war for peace and justice), another round of minor debacles breaks out, none of which are desirable or believable; cumulatively, they reduce Dworkin's magical realism to bathos and ennui. High spirits, a cast of thousands: a near-miss.