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The Blood of the Lamb: A Novel Paperback – June 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"Funny, angry, and thoroughly human, The Blood of the Lamb is the best novel about cancer I've ever read."
(John Green, author of "The Fault in Our Stars" The Week 2014-06-06)

"My favorite novel of [2005] is the University of Chicago Press reprint of Peter DeVries’ The Blood of the Lamb, a tirade against faith inspired by the death of the author’s daughter. Not since Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair has a book rendered man’s rage against a hostile God so visceral.... DeVries’ Don Wanderhope moves deftly from manic hilarity to manic fury, and back again, as he tells his story. At the end, all humor drains away in a strange, explosive and utterly hopeless confrontation with the divine."
(Maud Newton Newsday)

"With luck, a writer capable of producing both Slouching Towards Kalamazoo and The Blood of the Lamb will not remain unappreciated for long."

(Adam Kirsch The New York Sun 2005-06-22)

“One of my favorite books ever.”
(John Green, author of "The Fault in Our Stars"

"If Peter De Vries did not write the latter part of 'The Blood of the Lamb' with his own life's blood, I never have read a book that was so written. It plainly is autobiographical, and for poignant, sensitive treatment of the death of a beloved child it has scarcely a superior in contemporary fiction."
(Fanny Butcher Chicago Tribune)

"A masterpiece of realism and literary craftsmanship. It tells a poignant story without relying on sentiment or sacrificing humor."
(J.E. Bruns Catholic World)

“De Vries was an editor at Poetry magazine, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and the author of some two dozen of the wittiest novels you’ll ever read, including the masterworks The Blood of the Lamb and Slouching Toward Kalamazoo, as well as The Tunnel of Love and Reuben, Reuben, just resurrected in handsome paperback by the University of Chicago Press. . . . Only those with a consummate lack of cleverness wield the word ‘clever’ as an insult, and De Vries demonstrates just how much can be done with a creative intelligence charged by the clever and satirical and ironic. Let us now praise those saints at the University of Chicago Press who possess the smarts and good taste to return to print a peerless American maestro of wit.”
(William Giraldi The Millions)

“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. . . . It’s something of a crime against literature that De Vries, whose novels of the 1950s and early ’60s made wonderful sport of postwar striving, the middle-class move to the suburbs, and generational clashes that would render major cultural shifts just a few years hence, has mostly been forgotten. . . . Literature—in the form of the University of Chicago Press—is making amends for its lapses by re-issuing the best of De Vries’ works, five comic tomes long out of print.”
(Sam McManis Sacramento Bee)

“Wounded as De Vries was, he stumbled forward in the manner he knew: by writing. He rendered the world as precisely as he could, with violence, beauty, grief, and humor intermingled. The way they always come.”
(Jonathan Hiskes Image: Art • Faith • Mystery)

About the Author

Peter De Vries (1910–1993), the man responsible for contributing to the cultural vernacular such witticisms as "Nostalgia ain't what it used to be" and "Deep down, he's shallow," was, according to Kingsley Amis, "the funniest serious writer to be found on either side of the Atlantic." But De Vries's life and work was informed as much by sorrow as by wit, and that dynamic is nowhere better seen than in his classics Slouching Towards Kalamazoo and The Blood of the Lamb. First published in 1982 and 1965, respectively, these novels reemerge with their sharp satire and biting pain undiluted by time.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226143880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226143880
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Schaap on July 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Writers--like artists of other mediums--often say that no novel or short story is really ever finished until it's read. As an old novelist friend of mine used to say, great fiction is always a C, never an O--that is, it leaves some open space for readers, space for us to bring our own lives and experience into the work and make it real or whole or alive.

I finished Peter De Vries's Blood of the Lamb last night, for the second time. I read it initially sometime in the Sixties, four or five years after it was published, at a time in my life when I loved the irreverence he wields at his tribe--the Dutch Reformed people into which he and I were both born. De Vries mocked us but good, for our silliness and the sometime idiocy of our piety.

Peter De Vries was, in his time, among the most well read and beloved of American humorists, his novels--most of them at least--knee-slapping satires of American life. Google him sometime and read a few of his finest quotes; he can be absolutely hilarious.

There is humor in Blood of the Lamb too, Don Wanderhope and his father, aboard their garbage truck, slowly sinking like the Titanic into the primordial ooze of some Chicago-land refuse pit. Scared to death, they break out with--what else?--the doxology.

But far and away, Blood of the Lamb is not a funny novel--not at all, even though forty years ago, when I first read it, I thought it was a hoot. But then, I was a kid, a rebel chafing under the strictures of De Vries's own ethnic and religious heritage, a heritage in process of cataclysmic change. It was the Sixties, after all, and little, if any of our lives were left untouched by the seismic cultural shifts of the era. At twenty, I read Peter De Vries's Blood of the Lamb and laughed.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Peter De Vries's *Blood of the Lamb* is a novel of singular depth and humanity. De Vries was America's greatest humorist in the fifties and sixties, but in this work, he deals, from autobiographical experience, with his young daughter's struggle against leukemia. Overflowing with love, wit, fury, energy, and human grace, this book goes to the core of things. It ranks with the greatest works of 20th-century American literature, and it will surprise you. De Vries is best known for his great work for *The New Yorker* and for comedic novels (many made into films) rich in puns, the anatomy of absurdity, and the depredations and joys of libido....but *Blood of the Lamb* is his transcendent work. It's out of print now, and used copies are often hard to come by. It's an exceptional and humanizing experience. It is a moving sublimation of irredeemable tragedy.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel Bernstein on June 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Very pleased that the University Of Chicago Press has brought this book back into print. Now I can discard the looseleaf version that I photocopied from a friend and purchase this one. This is a poignant and funny book that, after reading you will never forget. Buy 3 or 4 copies of it, because you will want all your friends and relatives to read it too!
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Richard L. Pangburn VINE VOICE on January 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The book is moving, witty, involving, and wise. It is hard to believe that this was published way back in 1961. This book sits now on my most beloved shelf. There is wit and sex and social commentary here, but the book rises above that. It is ultimately a book with a message, about stoic courage and grace, although not everyone is ready for the wisdom here. The book's ultimate message is that we should appreciate the moment and cherish those whom we love while we can. That, as Marcus Aurelius said, life is just loaned to us and, we ought to be ready, at any time, to gratefully say, "Here, I return that which has been loaned to me."
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Like all of De Vries work, this is a very funny book devoted to a very serious subject. The serious subject is loss of faith, in this case elicited by the serious illness and eventual death of a young child. Based apparently on events within De Vries' own family, Blood of the Lamb has all the hallmarks of De Vries best work; superb humor, exceptionally witty word play, and great emotional power. The conclusion is remarkably moving. I have recommended this book to physicians in training to convey the incredible suffering experienced by families with ill children.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Eric C. Welch on February 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Peter DeVries was a very popular writer who contributed many stories to the New Yorker in the fifties and sixties and who wrote several very funny novels. This autobiographical novel describes the growth to maturity of Don Wanderhope, member of a strickly Calvinist Dutch Reform family, whose brother becomes a heretic, whose father becomes addicted to drink and goes insane, and whose wife commits suicide after giving him a child whom he loves deeply. At age eleven, his daughter contracts leukemia, initially does quite well, but then succumbs to a staph infection in the hospital.
Wanderhope - I suspect the name is no accidental choice - in grief stricken anger rails against God and man. "I made a tentative conclusion. It seemed from all of this that uppermost among human joys is the negative one of restoration. Not going to the stars, but learning that one may stay where one is. It was shortly after the evening in question that I had a taste of that truth on a scale that enabled me to put my finger on it." The happiest moment of his life comes when the doctor lets him know that his daughter will be all right - a mistake as it turns out. "The fairy would not become a gnome. We could break bread in peace again, my child and I. The greatest experience open to man then, is the recovery of the commonplace."
The book has many humorous moments and profound insights, as Wanderhope struggles with religion as he tries to deal with the death of his only child.
"I believe that man must learn to live without those consolations called religious, which his own intelligence must by now have told him belong to the childhood of the race. Philosophy really can give us nothing permanent to believe in either. It is too rich in answers; each canceling out the rest..
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