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Who Wrote the Book of Love?

Who Wrote the Book of Love? is acclaimed novelist Lee Siegel’s comedic chronicle of the sexual life of an American boy in Southern California in the 1950s. Starting at the beginning of the decade, in the year that Stalin announced that the Soviet Union had developed an atomic bomb, the book opens with a child’s first memory of himself. Closing at the end of the decade, when Pat Boone’s guide to dating, ’Twixt Twelve and Twenty, topped the bestseller list, the book culminates just moments before the boy experiences for the first time what he had learned from a book read to him by his mother was called "coitus or sexual intercourse or sometimes, less formally, just making love." Between the initial overwhelmingly erotic recollection and the final climactic moment, all is sex—beguiling and intractable, naughty and sweet. Who Wrote the Book of Love? is about the subversive sexual imaginations of children. And, as such, it is about the origins of love.

Vignettes from the author’s childhood provide the material for the construction of what is at once comic fiction, imaginative historical reportage, and an ironically nostalgic confession. The book evokes the tone and tempo of a decade during which America was blatantly happy, wholesome, and confident, and yet, at the same time, deeply fearful of communism and nuclear holocaust. Siegel recounts both the cheer and the paranoia of the period and the ways in which those sentiments informed wondering about sex and falling in love.

"Part of my plan," Mark Twain wrote in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, "has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked." With the same motive, Lee Siegel has written what Twain might have composed had he been Jewish, raised in Beverly Hills in the 1950s, and joyously obsessed with sex and love.

Read an excerpt.

248 pages | 3 figures | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Biography and Letters


Literature and Literary Criticism: Humor


"There’s nothing sexier than sex. There’s nothing more important than sex. And, of course, there’s nothing funnier than sex. Who Wrote the Book of Love? will make you remember just how raunchy you were as a kid. And how maybe you should try to be that nasty again."

Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller

"Like many boys, the young Siegel has a sex life in this Freudian sense, but it’s not exactly something he lives so much as something he obsessively imagines. As such, his world is filled with longing, misinformed speculation (he mistakes his mother’s tampon for dynamite, for instance) and a very worn copy of The Swedish Sunbather. . . . It is moments and details like these, not the more eye-catching ones, that make this a memorable read."

Pete Coco | Time Out Chicago

"Hilarious. . . . A delicious, page-turning memoir that spans those doctor-playing, sex-obsessed, hormone-drenched years from 5 to 15.  It’s witty, warm, terribly sweet in places, and there’s never a dull moment on any single page. . . . Who Wrote the Book of Love? is not for the drear puritan. Yes, this charming book with so many laugh-out-loud sections, with its incurable nostalgia for youthful folly, is full of dirty thoughts, words and deeds. But I wonder if a more innocent book has been written lately. We’re not like this anymore, and we’re never going back. . . . Siegel has not just written a royally entertaining comic memoir, but he has given us a time capsule of our one-time national innocence, before every schoolchild could follow the antics of Monica Lewinsky and Michael Jackson on CNN."

Wilton Barnhardt | Chicago Tribune

"Who Wrote the Book of Love? won’t reach as wide an audience as a book published by Viking, but it is a worthy and more accessible counterpart to [Siegel’s] earlier love novels, and a book that will reward the readers it does reach."

Stephen Burn | American Book Review

"This book is funny even when it doesn’t necessarily aim to be, especially with guys my age who lived a good bit of it."

Blue Ridge Business Journal

Table of Contents

Chapter One Says to Love Her,
You Love Her with All Your Heart
1950 - 1951
Chapter Two: You Tell Her
You’re Never, Never, Never, Never, Never Gonna Part
1952 - 1953
In Chapter Three, Remember The Meaning of Romance
1954 - 1955
In Chapter Four, You Break Up,
But You Give Her Just One More Chance
1956 - 1957
By Chapter Five, She Loves You,
And All Your Dreams Come True
1958 - 1959

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