Friday, November 26, 2010

I Was a Teenage Dwarf

 I Was a Teenage Dwarf (Wild Adventures of a Pint-Sized Don Juan)
© 1959 Max Shulman
182 pages


I purchased this book online through a used book store during the summer, and picked it up to read last week when I wanted a fun story and had exhausted my weekly reading to the point where my only options were genetics or theology. I purchased the book immediately after finding out that it is the predecessor of one of my favorite books: The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.While Many Loves collected twelve different stories about the same character (with endings so varied they cannot possibly fit into the same continuity),  Teenage Dwarf follows Dobie through middle school into marriage and tell in ten separate parts a larger story -- Dobie's pursuit of love and what he learns along the way. In almost every story (save "The Costly Child"), Dobie pursues the girl next door. Since people constantly move out of the home next to his (its flat room attracts sea gulls, who constantly drop clam shells on it to get at the meat inside), Dobie is constantly pursuing a different girl and invariably sees his every triumph or loss rendered moot.


Though the book was fine for a laugh (and was strangely serious at the end),  it didn't send me into spasms as I'd expected from Dobie Gillis. I love this guy -- I've been re-reading Many Loves since high school, collapsing on the floor in a fit of laughter every time, and I fully expected lightening to strike twice. This book's  Dobie isn't near the outrageous scamp of Shulman's following collection. Proto-Dobie seems to have few outside friends, no other drive other than to find female company.  Dobie is more like Archie Andrews here than the cocky, 'sensitive intellectual' whom I'm so fond of. Of course, hilarity is in the eye of the beholder. While I was smirking  and merely chucking while reading this, another reader had this reaction:

 I was asked to leave my high school library because it was study period, and I was reading Teenage Dwarf, and I started laughing so loudly that I could not control myself. Basically, I GUFFAWED into the studious silence. Tears streamed down my face, despite the fact that I was being “Sh”ed left and right. I finally had to just gather up my book bag and stagger out into the hall, where I stood, and literally HOWLED with laughter, by myself, for a good 5 minutes.
I can count the writers on one hand who are that feckin’ funny.
I enjoyed the book, but not as much as Many Loves or Barefoot Boy with Cheek. I found it mildly silly: not absurdist, but just a little wacky. 
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