De Vries back in print

Just before Thanksgiving last year, I ran a short series of posts from readers advocating books that have drifted out of print. Robert Nedelkoff of the Lost Books Club wrote in to lament the unavailability of titles by three American writers. Peter De Vries topped his list.

Next month, the University of Chicago Press will reprint two of De Vries’ books, Slouching Towards Kalamazoo and The Blood of the Lamb.

I’ve yet to read De Vries, who once told a Publishers Weekly writer that he wanted to disown his first three novels (not among the reprints). “For a while I tried to buy up extant copies and burn them,” he said, “but now it costs too much.” (PW, 10/16/1981.)

His admirers included Kingsley and Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Harper Lee, and Paul Theroux. The elder Amis called him “funniest serious writer to be found on either side of the Atlantic.” A quick look at a few representative quotes online suggests that this evaluation is not a stretch. Some highlights:

  • I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.
  • It is the final proof of God’s omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us.
  • My father hated radio and could not wait for television to be invented so he could hate that too.

A Contemporary Authors profile includes this brief excerpt from an old TLS piece by Stuart Sutherland:

The ultramodern young clergyman of Mackerel Plaza is caught staring at a girl’s legs; “Stop looking at my legs,” she says, to which he replies, “Don’t worry, ma’am, my thoughts were on higher things.” Of twentieth-century novelists, only P. G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh have De Vries’s capacity to make the reader laugh out loud.

And an old Almanac entry at Terry Teachout’s site is a quote from The Blood of the Lamb.


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