The Vale of Laughter Author:Peter Devries Is human life a zoo in a jungle, as our hero believes? If it is indeed itrinsically absurd, can absurdity be lived by as a principle? If so, then the highest good is to be a clown, not a saint. Joe Sandwich begins his career as a clown in the very house of God, where we find him at a tender age using the confessional to report his good deeds for... more » the week: "Father, I helped an old lady across the street," etc. He conceives a son under circumstances too ribald for a dust jacket, and convulses his wife into labor by cutting up in the maternity ward. He relieves the monotony of gardening by mowing expletives into the lawn; he starts a hoax that Khrushchev has defected to the West.
But life gives him back as good as he dishes out. He marries into a soft job as a broker only to find that watching the market tape makes him seasick. His career as an amorist fares no better. His wife catches him, not in bed, but raking leaves at a local Y, because the woman with whom he has got mixed up believes in obscure forms of penance. He is sped to a sanatorium and put under the care of a doctor who is going through a depression. He cuckolds a college professor who is an authority on laughter (though himself a gem of unconscious humor), and it is this central entanglement that sends the story to a climax so ludicrously apt that it might be called a kind of reductio ad absurdum of absurdity.« less