De Vries, Peter

De Vries, Peter
▪ 1994

      U.S. writer (b. Feb. 27, 1910, Chicago, Ill.—d. Sept. 28, 1993, Norwalk, Conn.), was critically acclaimed as the author of such uproarious novels as The Tunnel of Love (1954), Comfort Me with Apples (1956), and its sequel, The Tents of Wickedness (1959), which showcased his acerbic wit, flair for wordplay, and mastery of puns. De Vries, who worked during the Great Depression as a taffy apple peddler, candy vending machine operator, and furniture mover before joining (1938) the Chicago-based Poetry magazine as an associate editor, found his widest reading audience as a staff member (1944-87) of The New Yorker magazine. There he wrote stories and later found his niche in the art department, putting the finishing touches on the magazine's renowned cartoon captions. His strict Calvinist upbringing found comic expression in novels that explored religious themes, notably The Mackerel Plaza (1958). The book humorously detailed the plight of the Rev. Andrew ("Holy") Mackerel, who faces opposition from his congregation when he announces his intention to remarry after the death of his saintly wife. His one serious novel, The Blood of the Lamb (1961), was an autobiographical account of the death of his young daughter from leukemia and his own struggle with religious issues. De Vries later explored feminism, gender identity, and the sexual revolution before returning to a lighter touch in Consenting Adults; or, The Duchess Will Be Furious (1980). His most commercially successful work, The Tunnel of Love, was the story of a hapless cartoonist modeled after himself; the novel was later adapted for stage and film. In 1986 De Vries curtailed his writing; he quipped, "When you know you're done, you're done."

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▪ American author
born Feb. 27, 1910, Chicago, Ill., U.S.
died Sept. 28, 1993, Norwalk, Conn.

      American editor and novelist widely known as a satirist, linguist, and comic visionary.

      De Vries was the son of Dutch immigrants to the United States and was reared in a Calvinist environment on Chicago's South Side. He graduated (1931) from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. After several years (1938–44) as an editor for Poetry magazine in Chicago, he joined the editorial staff of The New Yorker and thereafter made his home in Connecticut.

      Although De Vries' first novel, But Who Wakes the Bugler? (1940), was most notable for having been illustrated by the cartoonist Charles Addams, and although his next two novels were hardly noticed at all, his first book of short stories, No But I Saw the Movie (1952), won critical acclaim, and his subsequent novel, The Tunnel of Love (1954), became a best-seller and was successfully adapted both as a play and as a motion picture. Noted for being light on plot and filled with wit, puns, and sardonic humor, De Vries' novels were appreciated for their imaginative wordplay and ironic vision. His later works include, among others, Comfort Me with Apples (1956), The Tents of Wickedness (1959), Reuben, Reuben (1964), Madder Music (1977), and Slouching Towards Kalamazoo (1983).

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Universalium. 2010.

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