Max Apple: Free Agents; Harper & Row; New York.

Picture a man. About fivc­ eight-and-a-half in height, wire­ rimmed glasses, curly hair, salt­-and-pepper beard, blue brushed­-cotton shirt, loose navy tie, khaki pants, and Top Siders. Picture him in two dimensions–as if he is a life-sized cartoon, like a Lichtenstein. Once the image is fixed, imagine it being torn vertically into two roughly equal pieces, with the appropriate onomatopoeic “r-r-r-i-i-i-i-p-p­-p!” This is Max Apple. As is evi­dent in this collection of prose pieces (some are obviously fiction; others,well, only his hair-dresser–or agent–knows for sure), Apple is a man who cherishes tradition on the one hand and who is using his other hand to push ahead trendy, lib­eral concepts and lifestyles. This tension produces ragged think­ing in polished prose.