Books: Whim and Welfscfimerz

THE CAT'S PAJAMAS & WITCH'S MILK by Peter De Vries. 303 pages. Little, Brown. $5.95.

"If there's anything I hate," the comic novelist Peter De Vries once observed, "it's that word humorist. I feel like countering with the word seriousist."

Over the years, he has countered with a great deal more. At 58, 14 years and nine books out of The Tunnel of Love, De Vries has grown slightly less punnish than he used to be, more dedicated to finding a way through the punishing side of American life. Age and personal tragedy have...

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