Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Jew of Home Depot and Other Stories by Max Apple

I am a big Max Apple fan. I have been ever since I read The Oranging of America and Other Stories back in 1976 when he was a professor at Rice University in Houston. I was living in Texas at the time, too, and enjoyed how he set some of his entertaining stories in places that I knew, like the Astrodome. I also really enjoyed his memoirs of growing up Jewish in Grand Rapids, Michigan I Love Gootie: My Grandmother's Story and Roommates: My Grandfather's Story. Understandably, I was excited to learn about The Jew of Home Depot and Other Stories, his first story collection in twenty years.

Apple continues to know where I go. I started the collection while on vacation in Saugatuck, Michigan. Bonnie and I went up to Muskegon one day to see some museums and old houses. The next morning I discovered "Indian Giver," an Apple story set in Muskegon of all places. I had seen the tourist sites. Apple took me to the junkyards where men were trying to practice their religious faiths while making a living off used auto parts and scrap metal.

In a larger sense, Apple knows where we all go. His stories take place at basketball games, pharmaceutical conventions, playgrounds, stereo stores, hotel lobbies, and the local Home Depot. These are common places but his characters are extraordinary. They always seem to have unique problems that somehow beautifully reveal universal themes. There are a couple of stories set in nursing homes, "Strawberry Shortcake" and "Adventures in Dementia," that will connect with many readers. Again, Apple knows where we go or may be going sometime soon.

The title story takes the reader back to Texas to a college town where a Jewish family is temporarily living across the street from a fraternity house. What the teenage son sees out his window shocks him. The story is brilliant and the last paragraph is a classic twist that I will say no more about.

I find that few people seem to know about Apple. I look really smart when I introduce his books to story readers. Try his books and then spread the word.

Apple, Max. The Jew of Home Depot and Other Stories. John Hopkins University Press, 2008. ISBN 9780801887383

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