Peter De Vries
|Born||Peter De Vries|
February 27, 1910
|Died||September 28, 1993 (aged 83)|
|Occupation||Novelist, satirist, magazine editor|
|Notable works||The Tunnel of Love (1954)|
The Blood of the Lamb (1961)
|Notable awards||American Academy of Arts and Letters (1983)|
Peter De Vries (February 27, 1910 - September 28, 1993) was an American editor and novelist known for his satiric wit. He has been described by the philosopher Daniel Dennett as "probably the funniest writer on religion ever".
De Vries was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1910. He was educated in Dutch Christian Reformed Church schools, graduating from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1931. He also studied at Northwestern University. He supported himself with a number of different jobs, including those of vending machine operator, toffee-apple salesman, radio actor in the 1930s, and editor for Poetry magazine from 1938 to 1944. During World War II De Vries served in the U.S. Marines, attaining the rank of Captain and was seconded to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Very little is known about his time in the military or with that secret organization, the 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, writing stories and touching up cartoon captions. A prolific writer, De Vries wrote short stories, reviews, poetry, essays, a play, novellas, and twenty-three novels. Films made from De Vries's novels include The Tunnel of Love (1958), which also was a successful Broadway play; How Do I Love Thee? (1970, based on Let Me Count the Ways); Pete 'n' Tillie (1972, based on Witch's Milk); and Reuben, Reuben (1983), which also inspired a Broadway play, Spofford. Earlier, in 1952, De Vries also contributed to the writing of the Broadway revue New Faces of 1952. Although he enjoyed success for five decades, all his novels were out of print by the time of his death.
Peter De Vries met his future wife, poet and author Katinka Loeser, in 1943 when she won an award from Poetry magazine. The couple moved to Westport, Connecticut in 1948. They were the parents of four children: sons Derek and Jon, daughters Jan and Emily. Emily died in 1960 at age ten after a two-year fight with leukemia. This experience provided the inspiration for his 1961 work, The Blood of the Lamb. His son Jon is an actor who has appeared in movies such as American Gangster; Sarah, Plain and Tall; and Skylark; as well as episodic television in shows like Blue Bloods, Boardwalk Empire, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. His daughter Jan, an author, editor and psychic counselor whose interests and activities ranged from homeopathic medicine to shamanism, the occult and Native American lore, died in 1997 at age 52, of cancer.
Katinka De Vries died in 1991. Peter De Vries died at age 83 on September 28, 1993 in a Norwalk, Connecticut hospital. He, his wife, and daughter are buried in Willowbrook Cemetery, Westport, Conn.