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The Propheteers

By (author) Max Apple
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Faber & Faber, London, United Kingdom
Published: 6th Jul 1987
Dimensions: w 140mm h 200mm
ISBN-10: 0571148786
ISBN-13: 9780571148783
Barcode No: 9780571148783

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Kirkus US
In the title story of The Oranging of America (1976), Apple made sweet satire out of the notion of Howard Johnson as a Johnny Appleseed tycoon - benevolently touring the US by car, ever in search of new spots for traveler oases. Then, in his second collection, Free Agents (1984), Apple offered an equally fanciful, wishful view of empire-builder Walt Disney - as the impractical, dreamy pawn of his mercenary brother. And now, in a beguiling yet finally overbusy novel, Apple whimsically brings those two American dreamers together - as two of the major figures in a battle over the land that's destined to become Disneyworld. Circa 1964, Johnson is old, out of touch, kicked upstairs by corporate management; his longtime aide Mildred is ill, preoccupied with death and cryogenics; their beloved driver Otis is retiring. But Howard and Mildred set out in their Cadillac limo yet again, this time headed for Florida, fired by a vision of restful "Johnsonland, a nature-lover's park, an Audubon Society version of Disneyland. . ." Meanwhile, of course, rapacious Will Disney is buying up most of Orlando for Disneyworld - though Walt himself is back in L.A., deep in one of his frequent depressions. And living in Orlando are two past-haunted figures with very different reasons to resist the Disney onslaught: Bones Jones, owner of the local Class D baseball team, has been convinced for 30 years that the Disneys sabotaged his budding cartoonist career; and Margery Post Merriweather, the cereal heiress, is determined to protect the serene privacy of her Orlando estate at any cost. At first Apple juggles these converging subplots with seductive authority, even keeping dotty digressions in some sort of narrative balance; e.g., while catatonic Walt wanders into a platonic L.A. soulmateship with a kindly R.N., Margery is recalling her thwarted loves for her bran-crazed father and her ice-obsessed lover Clarence Birdseye. Eventually, however, Margery's meanderings - which include a visit to S. Dali, who once painted dozens of vegetarian specialties for meat-hating papa Post - overwhelm the inventive yet fragile fantasy, pushing it over into silly contrivance. And Apple's attempt to cram in virtually every American-Dream issue - from Art vs. Nature to populism vs. elitism to media-madness - results in a cumulative thematic overkill, with an uncharacteristically shrill finale. ("As awful as it was, he was giving them what they wanted," sighs Margery - as Walt arrives from L.A. to treat the children of Orlando to a nasty new thrill-game.) Still, for over half its length, this mock-epic fable offers Apple at his distinctive, funny best - finding the magic as well as the menace in the quests of US entrepreneurs, adding charm and warmth to a genre (cf. Vonnegut, Coover, Doctorow, and their imitators) that too often slides into lumbering irony and smug preachiness. (Kirkus Reviews)