I Hear America Swinging (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
In I Hear America Swinging (the title comes from a pseudo-Whitman poem that opens the novel) Peter De Vries’s seventeenth novel, this chronicler of the absurdities of sophisticated East Coast America describes the effects of that emancipation and erudition—sexual, cultural, aesthetic—when it pervades (infects?) the Middle West. Or, to coin a metaphor that is almost as “bad” as those that glut this marvelously corny, deliciously zany—if seriously flawed—book: what happens when the Bible Belt drops its pants?
The recorder of this cultural-moral revolution is Bill Bumpers, a fledgling marriage counselor (“those ambulance drivers in the war between the sexes”) who sets up shop in the heart of the heart of the country, Middle City, Iowa. Bumpers is nobody’s fool—when the sociology department rejects his doctoral dissertation as inept, he submits it to the English department as an “antinovel” and wins his degree with honors—but the minute he encounters his first client, a farmer’s wife in an “F. Scott Fitzgerald” sweatshirt, he is put off-balance by the newly liberated and sophisticated denizens of Middle City. Until he gets the hang of it, about halfway through the novel, Bumper’s marital advising brings on disastrous and hilarious complications.
His first challenge, one that snowballs into a series of...
(The entire section is 1682 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
Christian Science Monitor. LXVIII, August 11, 1976, p. 22.
National Observer. XV, June 12, 1976, p. 21.
New York Times Book Review. May 9, 1976, p. 5.
New Yorker. LII, June 28, 1976, p. 89.
Newsweek. LXXXVII, May 17, 1976, p. 108.
Saturday Review. III, April 17, 1976, p. 34.
Time. CVII, May 24, 1976, p. 86.
(The entire section is 36 words.)