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Book Title: Slouching Towards Kalamazoo|
Format files: PDF
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The author of the book: Peter De Vries
Edition: University of Chicago Press
Date of issue: August 30th 2012
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It is 1963 in an unnamed town in North Dakota, and Anthony Thrasher is languishing for a second year in eighth grade. Prematurely sophisticated, young Anthony spends too much time reading Joyce, Eliot, and Dylan Thomas but not enough time studying the War of 1812 or obtuse triangles. A tutor is hired, and this "modern Hester Prynne" offers Anthony lessons that ultimately free him from eighth grade and situate her on the cusp of the American sexual revolution. Anthony's restless adolescent voice is perfectly suited to De Vries's blend of erudite wit and silliness--not to mention his fascination with both language and female anatomy--and it propels "Slouching Towards Kalamazoo" through theological debates and quandaries both dermatological and ethical, while soaring on the De Vriesian hallmark of scrambling conventional wisdom for comic effect.
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Read information about the authorPeter De Vries is responsible for contributing to the cultural vernacular such witticisms as "Nostalgia ain't what it used to be" and "Deep down, he's shallow." He was, according to Kingsley Amis, "the funniest serious writer to be found on either side of the Atlantic." “Quick with quips so droll and witty, so penetrating and precise that you almost don’t feel them piercing your pretensions, Peter De Vries was perhaps America’s best comic novelist not named Mark Twain. . .” (Sam McManis, Sacramento Bee).
His achievement seemed best appreciated by his fellow writers. Harper Lee, naming the great American writers, said, “Peter De Vries . . . is the Evelyn Waugh of our time". Anthony Burgess called De Vries “surely one of the great prose virtuosos of modern America.”
Peter De Vries was a radio actor in the 1930s, and editor for Poetry magazine from 1938 to 1944. During World War II he served in the U.S. Marines attaining the rank of Captain, and was seconded to the O.S.S., predecessor to the CIA.
He joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine at the insistence of James Thurber and worked there from 1944 to 1987. A prolific writer, De Vries wrote short stories, reviews, poetry, essays, a play, novellas, and twenty-three novels, several of which were made into films.
De Vries met his wife, Katinka Loeser, while at Poetry magazine. They married and moved to Westport, Connecticut, where they raised 4 children. The death of his 10-year-old daughter Emily from leukemia inspired The Blood of the Lamb, the most poignant and the most autobiographical of De Vries's novels.
In Westport, De Vries formed a lifelong friendship with the young J. D. Salinger, who later described the writing process as "opening a vein and bleeding onto the page." The two writers clearly "understood each other very well” (son Derek De Vries in "The Return of Peter De Vries", Westport Magazine, April 2006).
De Vries received an honorary degree in 1979 from Susquehanna University, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in May 1983.
His books were sadly out of print by the time of his death. After the New Yorker published a critical reappraisal of De Vries’ work however (“Few writers have understood literary comedy as well as De Vries, and few comic novelists have had his grasp of tragedy”), The University of Chicago Press began reissuing his works in 2005, starting with The Blood of the Lamb and Slouching Toward Kalamazoo.
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