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Bud Does Johnny

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Bud Does Johnny

StephenB | Sep 24, 2003 12:13 PM

The profile of R.W. Apple, Jr., by Calvin Trillin in the Sept 29th New Yorker is fascinating as far as it goes. But in the end, it's a customers's game, by which I mean that Trillin doesn't get into any of the subjects that might make his friend, Apple, uncomfortable.

1) How much does Apple weigh? To what extent does it fluctuate? Is his weight a health problem? If so, how is he dealing with it? What did Apple look like when the two met in 1956?

2) What is the dollar amount of Apple's expense account -- both for a typical meal and on a yearly basis?

3) If Apple is indeed capable of ingesting 3-18 lunches in a single day, how does that affect his critical acuity, since hunger is clearly a major influence on the gustatory response?

Trillin makes a great deal of Apple's spending, but gives us no idea of what level he's talking about. A good, experienced reporter like Trillin could have found out from multiple sources if he'd tried. Surely a good experienced reporter like Apple never would have left this subject alone.

Trillin suggests that part of the Apple lifestyle is to spend a lot of money, and that his ability to do so constitutes a victory over the Grey Lady. What, then, does he think of Apple's recent reports from Hanoi, Singapore, Hong Kong and Lafayette, La., in which enthusiastically-described meals are available for as little as $2? Why is Apple just as turned on by cheap eats if he enjoys spending torrents of dollars?

Finally, Trillin's own attitude toward dining is well-known (and appreciated) by readers of The New Yorker. It is inevitable that readers, esp. Chowhounds, will wonder how Apple's tastes jibe with those of the author of "American Fried." Trillin is writing from a platform -- his own oeuvre -- that simply cannot be ignored.

Apple's relationship with his stern, remote father has the feel of canned goods as related here. That is hardly what I mean by getting into uncomfortable areas. We are dealing with two superb reporters, and what we have in the end is a buddy-note, not worthy of either the subject or the writer.

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