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Actor Carl Reiner yucks it up in 'Just Desserts'

Read an excerpt of the award-winning actor's latest novel.
/ Source: TODAY books

Armed with the modest success of his last novel and the not too ego-damaging reviews, Nat Noland, feeling an urge to create a new work, typed Untitled atop the page and stared at it hopefully.

“Nattie-boy,” he addressed himself, “this time why don’t we take on something serious?”

“We took on Genesis last time out…that was pretty darn serious.”

“I was thinking weird-serious like the rapture books those two religious nuts wrote. That left-behind series sold millions.”

“Hey, let’s do one where no one gets left behind,” he added, excitedly,

“Everybody stays behind…by choice!”

“Yeah, and instead of going to heaven, they have a rapturously fun time on earth laughing and partying until they die, of natural causes, in their late nineties.”

“…or early hundreds…”

“…while having sex!”

“And we call it, Going to Glory with a Smile on Your Face…and God’s Blessing!” he added, laughing.

“Perfect title… funny, dirty and spiritual! Hey, I think we’ve got it!”

“We’ve got enough. Start typing, Nattie-boy!”

Nat leaned back and thought about the creative conversation he just had with himself. He was no longer self-conscious about engaging himself in audible discussions, and he had Dr. Frucht to thank. He thought now of his psychiatrist’s parting words:

“Mr. Noland, you have managed to write fine books by talking to yourself, and I think you should continue this way. I see no reason to break up a winning team. You are, obviously, your best collaborator!”

“Okay, collaborator,” Nat sighed, “start collaborating. Any ideas?”

Nat thought for a moment, then mumbled, “Let me try staring at my eyelids!”

“Yeah, that did jump start one of our novels.”

When Nat was about to start on his third book he had closed his eyes and concentrated on the back of his eyelids. While staring at them he saw the word “normal” appear.

“What is normal?” he had asked himself. In answering that question, the novel Normal was born.

So, once again, Nat closed his eyes, concentrated on the back of his lids, and within a phantom blink of an eye, the word “blurbs” popped up. He thought for a moment then furiously typed a short paragraph.

“This is great!” he laughed, as he read aloud: “At last, the novel we have been waiting for Nat Noland to write—a serious, spiritual and suspenseful work. If it takes you more than one sitting to finish this seriocomic, peach of a book, get yourself checked for dyslexia…Larry Gelbart, creator of the Emmy award-winning T.V. series Mash. Winner of Humanitas award, 2007.”

“That is original! A celebrity quote for a novel that hasn’t been written! Our publisher is going to love this! More, more!”

“How about…” Nat said, as he typed, “In his new novel, Nat Noland once again demonstrates his ability to turn the prosaic into pith and the mundane into magic.”

“Pith into magic! I like that,” he laughed. “Who wrote that?”

“How about Philip Roth?”

“Pith sounds like Mel Brooks!” he said, typing, “Mel Brooks, author of Broadway’s smash-hit musicals The Producers and Young Frankenstein!”

“Here’s what Philip Roth wrote,” he said, typing away, “This imaginative new work of fiction could well be the blueprint for the brave new world for which we have yearned, and now know how to build. Bravo Mr. Noland!”

“Hey, instead of Philip Roth, make that Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion. I like having God on our back cover. God is hot.” “Philip Roth gave us a short, sweet one, ‘I hope Mr. Noland is planning a Blurbs II.”’

“Hey, what about getting these guys’ permission? They may sue.”

“I hope they do! Being sued by Gelbart, Brooks, Roth and Dawkins is great publicity.” Nat laughed, replacing Untitled with Blurbs, a new novel by Nat Noland!

“I like Blurbs,” he hesitated, “but does it have to be a novel? It took over a year to write the last one.”

“Almost two…how about a novella?”

“Hmm, a novella has to be at least a hundred pages.”

“What’s shorter than a novella?”

“Hey, remember how our shrimpy friend Paul Bluett’s Jewish grandma called him Paulelah?” Nat said, laughing excitedly. “How about, Blurbs, a new novellelah by Nat Noland!”

“Seventy pages long!”

“A pithy novellelah could be sixty.”

“Then pithy it’ll be!” he said, typing “novellelah” on the title page, “Now, we canuse an idea.”

Nat repeated the words, “an idea,” a half dozen times before blurting out, “That atheist thing we started…! What did we file it under?”

“Under its title which was a good one—God Help Me Help You!”

He was suddenly excited to bring up a file he had always intended to revisit. He had started the book with a letter to the Almighty but was discouraged when his publisher Ross Davidoff suggested that the title and the idea “stunk!” Nat tried not to think of the publisher’s critique as he reread his letter to God.

“Not too shabby,” Nat said, proudly, “Hey, when referring to God, I’ve capitalized the G in God and also the Y’s in You and Your. It looks strange. Wonder what God prefers?”

“I’ll ask him when I see him,” he quipped, “but about our list of ten suggestions...”

“Three suggestions! So far we’ve only come up with three.”

“So, we work up a few more. Let’s see what we have here. It seems we didn’t write any of the rewards for good deeds, but here’s a couple of the punishments for bad ones.”

Nat read: “The following punishments will be meted out immediately upon the perpetration of the offense!

“For Minor Incivilities…a detailed list of incivilities to come…One: A moment after the offense, the offender will lose his ability to walk and will instead…”

“Nat, darling,” a sweet voice on the intercom asked, “what are you doing?”

“Oh, nothing much,” he joked, “Just working on a spiritual blueprint for building a brave new world.”

“Well, stop for a minute and get the plunger. The powder room toilet is stopped up.”

“Glennie, can I take care of it later?”

“No! The Bluetts are due at seven.”

“For dinner!” Nat winced, “Darn, I forgot! I’ll be right there!”

Nat turned off his computer, retrieved his plumber’s helper and muttered, “First, fix the toilet—then, the world.”