From The New Yorker:"Peter de Vries, who died last week...

Salmagundi

October 19, 1993

From The New Yorker:

"Peter de Vries, who died last week, was a tall, sweet, rueful man whose burdens included a serious Calvinist upbringing and a quick-fire, high-burning gift for humor. The lifelong irony was distinctive -- 'De Vriesian,' one would like to say -- and can be followed down the rich trail of casuals, reviews, Talk stories, poems, and novel excerpts that he contributed to this magazine between 1939 and 1986. Before he arrived, he had been a co-editor of Poetry, and by the end of his long tenure here he had become the resident grammarian, academician, fine-tuner, and fixer-upper of the magazine's cartoon: a logical progression, one can almost hear him say.

"He was a right-between-the-eyes parodist; after reading his twists on Faulkner or Katherine Anne Porter or Elizabeth Bowen, say, one found later works by those worthies faintly but fatally tainted. (Faulkner, he once wrote, 'seems easier to reread than to read.') The popularity of his 1954 comic novel 'The Tunnel of Love' and of its pun-laden, sex-vexed ('Foreplay later,' one of his panting, adulterous heroes cries in mid-scuffle), and ludicrous exurban-picaresque successors -- 'The Mackerel Plaza,' 'Reuben, Reuben,' and the rest -- made for fewer De Vries pieces in these pages, but there was surcease in reading the books: a process that required pauses for breath-catching and eye-wiping. His novel 'The Blood of the Lamb,' which came after he and his wife, Katinka Loeser (also a valued contributor here), had lost a young daughter to leukemia, is a heartbreaking comedy, conveying a rich and shadowed tone that continued enfold its author during his later years in what he once called this vale of laughter."

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