The sometimes, though never deeply, amusing little tale of a teenaged boy planning for his sex life.
Andre Schulman is a New York City kid of 16 (the year is 1957) when he happens upon his parents’ sex manual, hidden at the back of a shelf—upon, that is, Van de Velde’s 1926 Ideal Marriage: Its Physiology and Techniques. For the enterprising and thoughtful Andre, the discovery becomes an incentive for much careful thinking, especially after he reads that Van de Velde holds as an achievable ideal the “husband as permanent lover of his wife”—an idea prompting Andre to “get a head start” and “begin preparing for marriage early.” He hopes briefly that he might lose his virginity to the unhappy and alcoholic Ronda, miserable with her own awful husband—but Ronda’s seductive overture proves to have been more boozy than real. On the other hand, a job as pillow salesman at Bloomingdale’s—industrious, he learns A to Z about bed pillows—lands him by quick invitation in the bed of an older woman, Gloria, who makes him a man—and whom he impresses with his own oral (albeit book-learned) technique. Gloria is a once-only girl, though, and Andre is left pining quixotically again for his true love, the perfect and pretty Jessica, though she lives in Boston and has taken up again with her previous boyfriend. The story maunders as high-school graduation draws slowly nearer and Andre dreams of the day Jessica will be his again—if ever. His father (a veterinarian who doesn’t like cats) offers a helpful conversation about masturbation (harmful only in excess, says dad), and Andre even finds out, in talking with his mother, that his father has brought less to an ideal marriage than he might have.
Andre is a friendly kid but hardly a complex one, and newcomer Friedman has to reach and stretch for material enough to fill up even this microcosmic little slip of a Bildungsroman.