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Slouching Towards Kalamazoo

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  328 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
It is 1963 in an unnamed town in North Dakota, and Anthony Thrasher is languishing for a second year in eighth grade. Prematurely sophisticated, young Anthony spends too much time reading Joyce, Eliot, and Dylan Thomas but not enough time studying the War of 1812 or obtuse triangles. A tutor is hired, and this "modern Hester Prynne" offers Anthony lessons that ultimately f ...more
Paperback, 246 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by University Of Chicago Press (first published July 1st 1983)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jun 28, 2016 Todd rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written comic novel, with a feeling of melancholy underneath it all, which is how all great comic novels should be. I didn't want it to end. I've now read four of Peter De Vries novels. I think I have to read them all. "…She called for me at my motel early, around four-thirty, so that we might do a spot of sightseeing in her Mercedes. It was spring, and she had on what must have been a new Easter outfit. It consisted of a dusty pink linen suit and a hat like a shot fowl. It was tilte ...more
David Schaafsma
It is interesting to think of Peter DeVries, a fellow English graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, pal-ing around with the likes of James Thurber and JD Salinger at The New Yorker. DeVries, from Chicago's Dutch Calvinist community, became the reigning humorist in the country for many years, and fit in at The New Yorker and on the east coast as an erudite former English major. I can't imagine this appealing to anyone who was not an English major, however, because you have to know ...more
Alex Sogo
Jan 07, 2013 Alex Sogo rated it really liked it
De Vries may be labled a "comic author," but Slouching Towards Kalamazoo is no light reading. Told from the perspective of a genius teenager who shows off his intellectual powers to the reader in his very narration, the book is a challenge worthy of the most skilled readers. De Vries's linguistic expertise, which is rather awe-inspiring, often borders on ostentation. However, this seemingly absurd pretentiousness perfectly captures the childish mentality of his young protagonist who craves atten ...more
Mike Saou
Dec 23, 2011 Mike Saou rated it really liked it
Written with the same lyrical mastery that I have come to expect from Peter De Vries, but having read "Blood of the Lamb" first, I'm a little biased toward that work. I think "Slouching Toward Kalamazoo" requires a little more working knowledge of the era in which it refers to fully understand all the references (basically if you're not as genius as De Vries, some humor will slip past, though this may be an editorial confession to being an ignoramus). Fantastic nonetheless.
Alex Sarll
Dan Simmons' Hyperion is replete with literary allusions, and following one of the ones I didn't recognise led me to an interesting article on Peter de Vries, who was quoted as saying “You can’t talk about the serious and the comic separately and still be talking about life, any more than you can independently discuss hydrogen and oxygen and still be talking about water.” Which suggested to me the wry wisdom of James Branch Cabell, and straight away had me interested. This eighties novel detaili ...more
Mar 02, 2016 Janet rated it really liked it
A challenging book to get through but extremely witty and worth the convoluted journeys to each punch line. I can see why DeVries was chummy with the likes of JD Salinger and was admired and quoted by Kingsley Amis. DeVries was no doubt influenced by Amis's "Lucky Jim" and Waterhouse's "Billy Liar". Tony Thrasher is the extreme underachiever- a genius still in the eighth grade at age 15. I enjoyed slogging through the book.

I must add a postscript to this review: the subject matter of an affair b
Feb 07, 2011 Michael rated it liked it
Recommended to Michael by: Jennifer
Very strange in being simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny, but not especially enjoyable. The beginning and end are better than the middle, which sags a bit.
Oct 02, 2015 Alan rated it did not like it
Talk about a book that started with great promise then fell flat and boring - this is it. DeVries introduces us to a child prodigy who is widely read but fails at school assignments. This leads him into a liaison with his teacher, who tutors him. It is all downhill from there, except for a great sequence in which an atheist debates a Baptist preacher. Their arguments are so good that the atheist and preacher are changed forever.
Nov 12, 2014 Francis rated it liked it
Peter De Vries worked with J. D. Salinger at the New Yorker. As I read this book I kept thinking that the lead character reminded me of something I had read in the past when suddenly a bright white light flashed inside the darkened cloud of my brain and stepping out from the glare appeared the image of Holden Caulfield.
John Maniscalco
Feb 06, 2009 John Maniscalco rated it it was ok
This book was personally recommended to me by Christopher Hitchens. Seriously. Now, Christopher Hitchens is pretty much my idol. Which is why I found it so odd that this book was so boring. It's obviously supposed to be a comedic novel and it has its moments(in fact, the reason Hitch recommended it to me because in the book there is a scene where a priest and an atheist debate the existence of God, only to finish the debate by convincing each other that the other is correct), but that great scen ...more
Julianna Taylor
Jul 21, 2015 Julianna Taylor rated it really liked it
I find the best humor places you into a state of slight discomfort. Maybe that's why we can usually only handle our comedy in 30 minute standup increments.
But this book, while uncomfortable at many times, went beyond the standup length. And did it well. And it's funny. And punny. And fun.
Jonathan Hiskes
Mar 07, 2014 Jonathan Hiskes rated it it was ok
A quick-tongued 8th-grader escapes his Bible-belt hometown with the help of his teacher. The novel is funny in dozens of places, but it didn't strike me as anything more than the sum of its gags.
Mar 12, 2016 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book tried much to hard. Although some of the jokes were quite funny, many more were flat and forced. The characters lacked cohesion.
Robert Leatherby
Jun 15, 2016 Robert Leatherby rated it liked it
Intelligent and comic. The humour in the book is ironic and occasionally delves into the surreal. Written in a style which no doubt allowed De Vries to be a successful New Yorker writer. The prose is ambitious and intelligent but i found it difficult to get through (maybe more suited to article writing rather than novels).
Jan 19, 2011 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub, 2011
Hmm. Well it's certainly an erudite book. But I didn't really buy that an 8th grader was quite as sophisticated a thinker as was portrayed. And I found some of the supposed erudition to be really authorial showing off (which I found off putting). The story is o.k. but it didn't really grab me and I didn't come away thinking that I really needed to read more by this author. Given that he's apparently someone others consider to be quite literary, I'm wondering if it's the author or just this parti ...more
Jan 20, 2012 Gena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had reallly high hopes for this book because I knew that De Vries had written for the New Yorker for so long and that Christopher Hitchens loved this book. My expectations were not met. It is funny, but not that funny; and clever, but not that clever. Perhaps had I gone in with lower expectations, I would have enjoyed it more. I would say that this a funny little fluffy book for the beach--although the atheist v christian parts do give some interesting things to think about--the main character ...more
May 31, 2011 James rated it did not like it
Shelves: coming-of-age, comic
Some funny one liners does not make a comedy. Really disappointing as had heard great things about the book. not sure what went wrong, in general i feel like comedy ages worse than any other genre and this felt super dated. Also the plot in this case kid growing up in north dakota is secondary to forcing a funny line every five pages. Unfunnily enough there is a character in the book who would nudge people very hard every time he came up with a bad pun, by the end i could fully appreciate how an ...more
Matt Seaton
Aug 17, 2016 Matt Seaton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful, rich, complicated, and witty.

Wonderful, rich, complicated, and witty are just a few of the words that come to mind after reading this book. I highly recommend it.
Denis Farley
Nov 25, 2009 Denis Farley rated it it was amazing
There is no other comic writer that I can think of that sends me to the dictionary more than Peter De Vries. I met him at his home in Westport, CT. as a friend of his son, Derek in 1993. We had a short chat in the kitchen. I thoroughly enjoy his writing and now market a double CD of an address he made to the students of his Alma Mater, Calvin College in 1979.
The Hopwood Lecture series - Peter De Vries at his alma mater, Calvin College in 1979.
Nov 24, 2008 Gerald rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of fratire, boychik lit
This book is both more ambitious as literature and less funny as entertainment than I remember. There are lots of literary and Biblical allusions, and De Vries even gets whimsical about "Christian atheism," Voltaire's notion of creating a nonexistent God out of necessity. Call it Christian Existentialism and you have a fairly serious discussion going.

Boychik Lit
Nancy Owen
Nov 23, 2015 Nancy Owen rated it liked it
I found Slouching entertaining,especially to the lit major who will recognize the many literary allusions in the text. The narrative is a bit dense, but the narrator is fascinating in that he breaks all acceptable norms (getting his junior high teacher with child) but prevails as an interesting character.

There's much humor here as well.
Aug 23, 2008 Ryan rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ryan by: Dad
I loved it. Typical De Vries -- funny, ironic, unexpected, unpredictable, outrageous situations and reactions, and great style that is so unique in today's world. (Very high-brow, with many jokes that you have to a word or two to get... but after all, he works for the New Yorker, so...)
Andrew R
Oct 16, 2007 Andrew R rated it it was amazing
Eighth grade intellectual Anthony Thrasher, held back for another year of eighth grade, predates nearly every legendary underachiever from Bart Simpson to Max Fischer. Better treatment of sex and adolescence than "The Rachel Papers" and more theological too. Probably my new favorite book.
Andrew Pessin
Jul 23, 2010 Andrew Pessin rated it it was amazing
really brilliant book -- incredibly witty, clever, hilarious, the sort of book i would love to be able to write ... will immediately start looking for other books by him ....
Jun 27, 2016 Bobbie rated it liked it
Very clever. Liked this book not for the story as much as for the writing. Will read more of his stuff.
May 06, 2009 Glenn rated it really liked it
Shelves: humorous-novels
Keep a dictionary handy. This one contains smart and witty vocabulary choices - and is also a funny read.
Lynn Vannucci
Nov 13, 2012 Lynn Vannucci rated it really liked it
Peter De Vries is brilliant. Along with Tunnel of Love, this is one of his best.
Lynn Vannucci
Apr 01, 2010 Lynn Vannucci rated it really liked it
Peter De Vries is brilliant. Along with Tunnel of Love, this is one of his best.
Oct 04, 2007 Monica marked it as maybe-someday
This doesn't look like it should take forever to read, should I get motivated?
Melinda Davis
Jan 30, 2015 Melinda Davis rated it it was amazing
This book is comedic perfection. It deserves to be read by everyone.
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Peter De Vries is responsible for contributing to the cultural vernacular such witticisms as "Nostalgia ain't what it used to be" and "Deep down, he's shallow." He was, according to Kingsley Amis, "the funniest serious writer to be found on either side of the Atlantic." “Quick with quips so droll and witty, so penetrating and precise that you almost don’t feel them piercing your pretensions, Peter ...more
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