Thursday, February 21, 2008

Non-Fiction: The Playboy Advisor Revisited

(Playboy Press, 1969)
Nice book. Or, more to the point, nice illustrations. The guy who did them, Bob Post, utilizes a technique reminiscent of that quintessential pop style used by The Beatles in their fab film Yellow Submarine. But this time around, instead the fab four being chased by Blue Meanies, the drawings primarily show men in the pursuit of women.
Playboy magazine’s version of Dear Abby has been a popular feature of the magazine since it was first incorporated back in 1960. Unlike Ask Xavier in the publication’s major competition Penthouse, the advisor has always focused less purely on sex and has instead tried to be an “urbane and sophisticated arbiter of taste, manners and morals.” Like many such advice columns, a large number of questions seem to reveal a general lack of experience, common sense or knowledge — but then, this book is from the 60s, and most of the readers do seem to be in their twenties and coming from relatively sheltered backgrounds. The concept of someone nowadays seriously asking “When is the best time to have sexual intercourse — morning, noon or night?” is only conceivable if the question is meant as a joke. But back then, in the age when nice African Americans still called themselves “Negroes” and women were “chicks,” “babes” or “coeds” who wouldn’t have sex until marriage (unless, of course, they were hippies), such questions were serious business.
Actually, as mundane and unsophisticated as most of the questions are, the advisor has a consistent high quality of answers. True, more than a couple have suffered due to the changes in time and attitudes, but for the most part the answers are all well thought out, level-headed and relatively “urbane.” But as good as the answers are, most of the questions remain fairly boring, so the book in general is something less than a page-turner. More sex and technique might have been in order, and less questions like “Whatever possessed my grandfather to wear spats?” or “What do they give men in nudist camps to prevent them from getting erections?”
But the book does have nice illustrations…

(Top) One of the most recognizable logos in the world; (Bottom) an example of Bob Post's work found on the web.

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