The Canadian best-selling novelist offers a novelization of the story of Noah and the ark, based not so much on the biblical account as on the legends that inform the English mystery play tradition. Theological issues are secondary; the main focus is on Noah's strained relationship with his wife, sympathetically portrayed as a gin-drinking earth mother who loves to play the piano and sing old favorites like ``Carry me back to old Virginny.'' Historical absurdities abound, but they serve to create a world of magic realism entirely appropriate to the subject matter. Findley, whose last novel, Famous Last Words , was a ``biography'' of Pound's Mauberley, has scored again with an ambitious combination of lore and invention, stylish and full of surprises. Edward B. St. John, Loyola Marymount Univ. Lib.