CARDS OF IDENTITY is one of my very favorite books ever. I first came across it in the early eighties, and because--as the first reviewer notes--it cyclically drifts in and out of print, I now buy a supply of copies whenever it's available, as a hedge against the coming lean times.
This is a hard book to describe, except to say that it's an exploration of the idea of self, which makes CARDS OF IDENTITY sound dry and pompous when in fact it's the absolute opposite. The "scientific papers" delivered by members of the Identity Club perform surgery on ancient tradition, the Church, sexual pathology, the Communist Party, and William Shakespeare, all within the larger framework of sending up village life, science itself, psychiatry (of course), and the family. Its effect is cumulative, but it's also so excruciatingly funny at the sentence and paragraph level that you will find yourself returning over and over to certain passages. I am deeply devoted to the "Warden of the Badgeries" section and can quote rather impressive segments of it, if I do say so myself.
The book has a complicated narrative and will not be to everyone's taste, but if it's your sort of thing--as Justice Potter Stewart once remarked of obscenity--you'll know it when you see it.