Picks and Pans Review: Free Agents

updated 06/25/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Max Apple

The author of these article-stories has no regard whatever for the niceties of distinguishing fact from fiction, journalism from fantasy, memoirs from lies. He just writes so imaginatively, so freshly that distinctions of the usual sort are irrelevant. First of all, he is funny. Second, he is aware of everything going on in our culture, and there is nothing he can't turn to his jolly purposes. In the title piece the narrator finds that his "liver and kidneys have been plotting a revolution that makes Lenin seem as insignificant as the Spanish-American War." Only his heart remains on his side, and during a long court trial involving his spleen, defense witnesses include ballplayer Dave Winfield and "the right kidney of murder victim Alma Sands." This is the daffiest kind of surrealism, and yet at its core is a panic that we all understand too well. Several of the stories deal with growing up Jewish: Ritual circumcision is reenacted as primal therapy in "The Eighth Day," the dietary laws are mixed with baseball in a memory-packed "Stranger at the Table." "Small Island Republics" offers a solution to the problem of Taiwan: Sell it to Disney and turn it into an amusement park for all Asia. This author, a young widower, makes us believe he has been an assistant troop leader for 11 Brownies. And his visit with his children to a restaurant full of electronic games is a wild hallucination. There are 20 pieces in this book; each one contains a surprise or two. Most of them are magical. (Harper & Row, $14.95)

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