Sunday, November 06, 2005


Pat Boone Recommends The Moderate Course

Some fine strange old books were brought out for Tuesday's literary revival at Quimby's in Chicago. After I kicked things off with a selection from one of my favorite self-published memoirs, Looney Tombs: Confessions of a Small-Town Funeral Director's Son by David Goulet, Claire Zulkey shared a turn of the century muckraker about Chicago's trade in "white slavery" (i.e. naughty, naughty prostitution), and Elizabeth Crane read from Jerome K Jerome's 1889 collection Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow. Jerome, as it happens, is just about my favorite writer ever -- his narrative voice in Three Men in A Boat really influenced my own for Sixpence House.

But I don't think any of us could quite top this: Nathan Rabin of The Onion bringing in Pat Boone's 1958 teen advice bestseller Twixt Twelve and Twenty, which was the number 1 bestseller in nonfiction for 1959. (Some context: this was just after On The Road came out. If I may hazard a guess, I would say the audience crossover between those two books was precisely... zero.)

Rabin interviewed Boone for The Onion a couple years ago, and so what better guide to lead us through passages like:

Now that I'm the father of four little girls I could wish that there were less kissing and more scrabble and parchesi. Do you know why?

Not for the usual negative reasons, although I go along with those. We all know that indiscriminate kissing, dancing in the dark, hanging around in cars, late dates at this early stage can lead to trouble. And that you miss a lot of fun with the nicer play-by-the-rules crowd. There is absolutely no need to rush clumsily into things that will have such beautiful meaning later on.

But I recommend the moderate course for another very positive reason. Kissing is not a game. Believe me! It means a lot more than just a pleasant pastime, a forfeit, or a test of popularity. I can tell you for sure that if you get to thinking of it that way, you're dead wrong. A kiss is a beautiful expression of love ~ real love. Not only that, it is a powerful stimulus of emotion. Kissing for fun is like playing with a beautiful candle in a roomful of dynamite! And it's like any other beautiful thing ~ when it ceases to be rare, it loses its value and much of its beauty. I really think it's better to amuse ourselves in some other way. For your own future enjoyment I say go bowling, or to a basketball game, or watch a good TV program (like the Pat Boone Chevy show!), at least for a while.

Sure, go and ahead and laugh, but... um... actually, yeah, just go ahead and laugh.

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