But, to be fair, this book is really more balanced than I thought it would be. Most of the book doesn't dwell too much on tragedies and loss, though it begins and ends with it full circle. However, the middle is mainly filled with philosophizing about religion and medicine as well as the first person protagonist's womanizing and overall experiences being young and a little frivolous with life's experiences.
I think those who want a glimpse of Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s and also who are curious to know what the religious and medical thinking was like in the area will not be disappointed. The conversations are just lengthy enough for a decent taste but not so lengthy that they get tedious.
pg. 110 "Death is the commonest thing in the universe."
pg. 111 "You believe what you must in order to stave off the conviction that it's all a tale told by an idiot."
pg. 117 "Ninety percent of the universe is missing."
pg. 208 "Prove to me there is a God and I will really begin to despair."
pg. 214 "Thus it seemed to me that what you were up against in Stein was not logic rampant, but frustrated faith. He could not forgive God for not existing."
pg. 220 "I sat mesmerized in my own seat, transfixed in perhaps the most amazing midnight I had ever lived through, yet one possessing, in the dreamy dislocations of whit it formed a part, a weird, bland naturalness like that of a Chirico landscape, full of shadows infinitely longer than the objects casting them."
pg. 228 "We will seek out the leaves turning in the little praised bushes and the unadvertised trees."
pg. 237 "It might even be said one pulls himself together to disintegrate. The scattered particles of self-love, wood, thrush calling, homework sums, broken nerves, rag dolls, one Phi Beta Kappa key, gold stars, lamplight smiles, night cries, and the shambles of contemplation-are collected for a split moment like scraps of shrapnel before they explode."
This was a book I started to read at the end of the last school year in June and had a really difficult time with because of the very personal nature of the subject matter. (The forward by Jeffrey Frank gets into this quite a bit, speaking about how De Vries was usually known for writing more comedic novels and how this is perhaps the closest he got to autobiography with his own life's tragedies.