Monday, November 21, 2011

Where the Boys Are

By Glendon Swarthout

Set and written in the late 1950s, this is the story of a young woman and her friends who go to Florida for spring break. And like college kids today, Merrit and Tuggle are looking to have a whole lot of fun, fun that includes days on the beach, evenings drinking and partying and nights having sex. About the only thing missing from this 1950s story is obvious drug use (the author mentions "herbs" a few times and I don't know if this is code for marijuana or just plain cigarettes: "He chauffeured us everywhere, served our Cokes, lit my herbs, bought our movie tickets...") and intentional nudity. They even refer to other kids as "nurds" but spelled differently and I couldn't tell from the context if it meant the same as nerd does today: "I feel any guy who chickens out on an easy, part-time operation like this is a nurd. In fact he's a green nurd."
Anyway, Merrit and Tuggle achieve their goal of meeting eligible males and Merrit ends up falling in love with three different men and having to figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She and Tuggle have a lot of fun, drink too much beer and liquor, have lots of sex, get involved in a conspiracy to send arms and sympathizers to Cuba and in general make asses of themselves.

I was interested in this book because I saw the movie on which it was based. The movie stayed pretty close to the narrative of the book, but I was surprised that the line I remember from the movie where the Paula Prentiss character says she her ambition is to be a "walking, talking baby factory" is not in the book. So kudos to the script writer that came up with that very memorable line.
But other than that minor disappointment, I did enjoy this book a whole lot. A real trip back to a time that it turns out was not simpler or more innocent than today. It was a lot of fun reading about the antics of our parents and grandparents and shows that things really haven't changed that much at all. Except we are perhaps more open about it than back then.

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