Books: The Slipped Discoth

THE VALE OF LAUGHTER by Peter De Vries. 352 pages. Little, Brown. $5.95.

The universe, Novelist Peter De Vries once said, is a safe with the combination locked inside, and he always plays a numbers game, hoping to open it up and get at the inner meaning. It is just as well that the operative click never comes, because when it does, De Vries will stop being desperately funny and become plain desperate. The thing to remember as the puns cascade down the pages is that his characters (and he, too) would rather keep their earthly uncertainties than lose the capacity to...

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