A writer for the New Yorker for decades, Peter DeVries wrote funny books, novels that actually made me laugh out loud.
The first of his I read was CONSENTING ADULTS.
It’s considered ‘minor’ DeVries but I’ve read it so many times the damned thing is falling apart. Our hero is an actor in a small town, a young man dreaming of going off to Broadway. He falls into a deep depression, as young men will, and his pal has a unique cure–get MORE depressed, so you’ll bottom out and have no choice BUT to feel better. He has an epiphany and hops in the sack with every female he can find. And, uh, that’s about it, plotwise. He has a pregnancy scare with one girl, and almost chokes to death on a piece of chicken (“But it was chicken MONTMORECY!” he protests to the girl who loves him).
Of course, even though he was a comic writer he got most acclaim for his Serious Novel, BLOOD OF THE LAMB. Inspired by the death of his young daughter, DeVries writes a brutal hit on the foolishness of belief in God. An angry book, and a great book about watching a loved one suffer and die.
The other late DeVries books I enjoyed are SLOUCHING TOWARD KALAMAZOO (about a kid who gets his teacher pregnant–laughs for extra credit!) and THE PRICK OF NOON, about a porn actor/director (he makes ‘educational films,’ sure).
The closest he got to fame was the release of REUBEN, REUBEN as a film in the ’80’s.
THE TENTS OF WICKEDNESS is a collection of his short New Yorker pieces. Fun stuff, a good intro to his witty, smart but light style.
His last novel was about a writer whose books don’t sell who goes in search of the handful of people who bought his last book. Kind of a bummer that when he died a few years later none of his books were in print.
These are fun books.