Picks and Pans Review: A the Propheteers

updated 03/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Max Apple

If the Great American Novel (that illusive, much-sought-after grail) is supposed to be funny, then this new book by Max Apple may very well be it. In The Propheteers, Apple borrows a few names from our recent past: cereal magnate C.W. Post, Post's daughter Margery, Walt Disney, Howard Johnson, Salvador Dali. As fictional characters they become mythic, more fantastic than anyone in real life. Margery Post Merriweather has a fling in Russia with Clarence Birdseye, buys his frozen-food idea to add to her cereal fortune and settles in Orlando, Fla. Then Disney wants her estate for Disneyworld, and she refuses to sell. Bones Jones, owner of the Orlando Pirates baseball team, hates Walt Disney because he believes Disney destroyed Jones's animated film character Perky Parrot in a fire, and Jones is out for revenge. Howard Johnson, with his assistant Milly, cruises the U.S. scouting sites for new motels. Johnson wants to create an amusement park for old folks. All these characters are wonderfully obsessed. They have compulsions that can change the U.S. The suspenseful plot moves toward a confrontation and an astonishing ending. To read The Propheteers is to have one's mind altered by the author's totally original vision. Apple, author of 1984's Free Agents, is one of the most quirky, sweet-natured writers at work today. There's nobody else who can produce this kind of splendid, profound nonsense. (Harper & Row, $16.95, paper, $7.95)

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