Gatsby Without Clothesn”O money, money!. . . Thou art the test of beauty,nthe judge of ornament, the guide of fancy, the indexnof temper, and the pole star of the affections.”n—Daniel DefoenPeter DeVries: The Prick of Noon;nLittle, Brown; Boston; $14.95.nIt is an odd thing for someone whonhas written an approving book onnPeter DeVries and who also has testifiednin court against pornography tonfind a book by that agreeable author,nmore or less, on that disagreeable subject.nIn The Prick of Noon there is anfamiliar DeVries type, a social climber,nin this case one Eddie Teeters fromnBackbone, Arkansas, a fellow who hasnmade it to the upper economic echelonsnby producing what he calls sexucationalnfilms.nThat is, he claims they are educational.nThat some of them depictn”group sex” is all right for Eddie, sincenthose films show how not to do it. ArenJames Bowden is author of PeternDeVries (G.K. Hall; Boston).n141 CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnby James Bowdennwe to believe this? Are we even tonbelieve that Eddie believes it? It’s difficultnto determine; although there arencertain similarities to The Great Gatsby,nalso about a parvenu who hasntaken a low but fast road to wealth,nthere are certain differences. For onenthing, the book about Gatsby is told bynNick Carraway, who gives us a morendetached perspective on the heroicnfigure than we get here, where Eddienhimself tells his own tale. There is ansophisticate available to do the telling,none Jerry Chirouble—inherited-richnand set up as a publisher just to havensomething to do, though he nevernpublishes any of the manuscripts hensolicits. But he’s only in the narrahvenas the desideratum. In that regard,nthen, the book is similar to what Gatsbynmight have been had Jay Gatsbyntold it himselfnIn that case, we probably wouldn’tnhave learned that the narrator’s realnnnname was James Gatz; in this one, thenwithheld name is Monte Carlo, Teeter’snprofessional tag, which of coursengoes in the opposite direchon socially,nas if Gatz had an underworld namen(Kid Guts? Jimmy-the-Gat?) he hidnfrom his neighbors. Another differencenis that while Gatsby already has hisnfake Norman castle in place. Teetersngoes shopping for his. And he’s nevernknown a Daisy.nOne thing Gatz and Teeters do havenin common is a general approval ofnThe American Dream, at least as itnmight be conceived of by a mafioso.nFitzgerald was half in love with itnhimself, but picked at some of itsnintellectual support when he parodiednat the end of his book some of BennFranklin’s Pelagian advice on selfimprovement.nAnd, of course, bynchoosing an underworld figure to illustratenthe success story, Fitzgerald callsninto question the story line itself Gatzn.has the same values Tom Buchanannand Nick Garraway do, or does so farnas goals are concerned—it’s just thatnthe means aren’t legal.nHow does DeVries feel about this innthe case of Eddie Teeters? Ironic? De­nVries’ parents were Dutch immigrantsnwho settled in an enclave of likemindednfolk in Ghicago, poor (at first:nhis father went from hauling coal andnice to having a moving/storage company)nand hard-core Calvinist (at first: hisnmother never sang in church after andaughter died). Peter was sent at somensacrifice to Galvin Gollege, but turnednboth against his father’s hopes that henwould become a minister and hisnpeers’ expectations that he make ancareer in polihcs. He has made it quitenwell in literature. He was publishingnin Esquire in the 30’s, was editor ofnPoetry in the early 40’s, and soonnthereafter reached The New Yorkernthrough his own ability and throughnJames Thurber, whom he’d met at anfund-raiser for the poetry journal.nMarried to another writer, KatinkanLoeser, he moved to Westport whennhis family came along. He’s often saidnhis trip has been from The CelestialnCity to Vanity Fair.nHe has always been equivocal aboutnthis journey. Often, as Roderick Jelleman(one of his early crihcs) has said,nDeVries’ work has suggested that “sinnisn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” DeVries’npeople certainly are often disappointedn