Everything you always wanted to know about osculation (but might never have thought to ask). Blue--who writes about the current culture scene for the Sunday Times of London--here uses kissing as a point of departure for discussions of maternal and erotic love (mostly heterosexual) in its many dimensions, from kiss-feeding to the use of the mouth for fellatio and cunnilingus, but also exploring such highly charged signifiers as the vampirish kiss and the kiss of death, with its shocking inversion of expectation. In the spirit of Diane Ackerman's popular recent ""natural histories"" of the senses and of love, On Kissing is a wide-ranging account of Blue's ""journey into the intellectual territories"" of numerous realms, touching on the Bible, medieval and Renaissance poetry, modern biology, the research of Masters and Johnson, the memoirs of the life of the !Kung woman Nisa, the writings of Michel Foucault, American film, Camille Paglia, and The Joy of Sex. Blue describes a larger kiss ""continuum,"" including ""the maternal, the placatory, the religious, the metaphysical and the erotic."" She is thus scornful of behavioral scientists who discount Freud's insights on the centrality of infants' oral experiences by viewing the parental kiss's role as solely a component of necessary care and nurture, excluding its inherent function as a precursor of courtship behavior and eroticism. (Blue sees this as basically a chicken-and-egg controversy anyway.) Citing the extreme sensuousness of Marilyn Monroe's open-mouthed pout, Blue locates the kiss as a powerful sexual symbol in today's culture of art and commerce. And she celebrates the '90s stop-and-enjoy-the-kisses mentality, reflecting a new romantic consciousness born of caution in the age of AIDS. Sexy, but also intelligent.