Allen could have followed his frank, funny 1994 bestseller Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man with a risk-free roundup of gags and musings based on his macho TV character. Instead the 43-year-old comic actor has written an odd, adventurous second book that is sure to confound some of his Home Improvement fans.
I'm Not Really Here describes Allen's search for a missing 1956 Ford hood ornament, lost somewhere in his Los Angeles house on a weekend his wife and 6-year-old daughter take a trip and leave him home alone. Drifting from room to room, a pensive, lonely Allen examines his fame, his flaws as a father and his feelings of detachment, revealing a surprising and serious interest in spiritualism and philosophy. Riffs on quantum physics, neorealism and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (no kidding) far outnumber Allen's more predictable ruminations on ear hair, flatulence and turkey and potato chip sandwiches. It's a weird mix that too often seems self-indulgent—three pages on his infatuation with René Descartes?—but Allen deserves points for daring to be dark. Reading about his whopper of a midlife crisis certainly beats sifting through shtick about airplane food. (Hyperion, $21.95)