Great but little-known American novelists are like air conditioners in the Yukon: few and far between. Every literature professor seeking a tenured position is trying to find one on whom to make his career. Hence, there are conferences organized on William Dean Howells and Ross Macdonald, and you could probably build a resort community in Florida out of all the retiring academics who gained their appointments by publishing monographs on Zora Neale Hurston.

How is it, then, that Peter De Vries is mostly forgotten? How can it be that for many years his work was out of print, and that there is still no biography of him?

Still more puzzling is the contrast between the interest in De Vries and John Updike when the two men were alive. I mention Updike because there were striking parallels in their careers and backgrounds. Both worked for decades at


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