One has never come to expect from Mr. DeVries any head-on confrontation with the noisy facts of our unpleasant contemporary existence, and this latest novel represents one of the most attractive swerves to enlightenment, or at least accommodation, in some time. For Joe Sandwich, wont at an early age to welcome the confessional booth of the Catholic Church as an opportunity to state his ""fundamental decency and tolerance and plain unadulterated niceness in the face of trying and even appalling odds,"" one of the faces of desperation is the comic. The tale, alas, that ""dogs the wag."" From the death of his irreverent father, when Joe transmutes a dying epithet to a spiritual declaration; to Joe's own rather humorously accidental demise, Joe lovingly constructs the comic. He revels in practical jokes; he cherishes abominable compulsions in spiritual and mundane matters; courts and makes love to his wife in high hilarity (puns and quips and cranks not to be quoted here); he whiles away the hours in his father-in-law's brokerage house with ""laughing stock."" But Joe's solution, though lofty, is a solitary one--after the death of his wife's new husband, he attempts to enrich his son's legacy and becomes involved in messy but direct human communication.... Funny, meaningful aces--for the following; a joker or two for the uninitiate.