by Grossman/Viking, $7.95
Fast food and the fast buck, TV game shows and the Astrodome: in these artifacts of American life most writers of fiction sense the odor of decay. But they strike Max Apple—an improbably named and extraordinarily entertaining short story writer–as signs of life, and he writes about them with mischievous wit and generosity.
Famous persons pop up unnervingly throughout this collection. In the title story, a delightful romantic fantasy, an entrepreneur named Howard Johnson roams the country like a latter-day Johnny Appleseed, sowing the land with orange-roofed motels. In another, Fidel Castro plays baseball against a former Rookie of the Year for the soul of a
Cuban umpire who once played for the “Chisox, Bosox, Bengals, and Birds,” as Fidel recites with feeling. My favorite story pits our brash-talking author against the renowned heavyweight Norman Mailer in the boxing ring before an audience of literary luminaries, including Theodore White, who urges from ringside, “Stay loose as a goose and box like a fox.”
Apple’s more imaginary characters tend to be lean, whimsical types pursuing a harmless passion– for one a mystical yogurt recipe, for another a clean sweep of the stock market– toward a private Promised Land.
The Oranaging of America overflows throughout with vitality, charm, and good humor; it is an irresistible collection of stories.