Digital dating the maltshop of

03 Nov

The book and its sequels, “Diane’s New Love” and “Toujours Diane,” were known, I would later learn, as malt shop novels.

Lenora Mattingly Weber was known for a 14-book cycle about a close-knit Irish Catholic family, the Malones, with a focus on its youngest member, Beany.

They went to double features and sock hops, then climbed into somebody’s jalopy to meet the gang for a milk shake at Joe’s Grill or Mc Knight’s Drugstore. But as a bespectacled preadolescent with early onset acne, I found these books an endless source of reassurance and hope.

You could be plain and scholarly, like Dinny Gordon, and still have boys eager to go out with you.

“There were anxieties about dating and how to treat friends and tucking in a shirt so a stain didn’t show.“It all rang so true to me and still does.”A glass-fronted bookcase at the top of Parker’s stairway holds a complete set of Beany Malone books in hardcover, the fruits of a long search.

Some were library discards, some were found on the internet.

And even the jukeboxes, if you can find one, are different, too.

King's immortal "Stand by Me," the Drifters' "There Goes My Baby," Connie Francis' oddly haunting and melancholy "Where the Boys Are," the Righteous Brothers' grand emotional epic "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," the Beach Boys' "I Get Around" and "California Girls," Little Peggy March's forlorn and dedicated "I Will Follow Him," and some lesser gems like the Rip Chords' "Hey Little Cobra" and the Diamonds' "Little Darlin'." The only thing missing is the tactile experience of punching the buttons on one of those big old beautiful jukeboxes and that timeless moment when the needle drops and life resumes with a song both familiar and new, one that belongs to a specific place and time. It's all times at once now in a blended cacophony of songs, but if the so-called malt shop days weren't really simpler (life and love being constants and never really simple), they were at least a clear moment in time. That bit of time travel, folks, is a delightful kind of magic.“I love these books, I absolutely love them,” she said. “There is definitely a group of moms and grandmas who are buying the books for their daughters and granddaughters,” Canfield said, “but the majority of our customers are middle-aged women who read the books in their youth and are buying copies so they can reread them.”They include Jennifer Travis, who read “Fifteen” and “Sister of the Bride” as a teenager. “I get to learn about the clothes and the cars of the ’40s and ’50s and about how a bedroom was decorated,” she said.A few years ago, after a hunt in a used-book store yielded a copy of “Senior Year,” one of five novels about the sisters Jean and Sally Burnaby by Emery, she ordered the rest of the series from Image Cascade.“Current teen fiction is far more complicated and nuanced,” said Travis, 50, who lives in Pittsfield, Mass., and is the managing editor of a publishing company. The girl has a problem at the beginning and it gets resolved by the end.”If others want to laugh at Travis for reading novels intended for long-ago teenagers, let them. “I read etiquette books from that period and there’s some intersection.Occasionally, the books tackled substantive matters: economic inequality, alcoholism, racism and anti-Semitism.More often — and here I’m thinking of Rosamund du Jardin — the protagonists had to cope only with what they viewed as an unreasonable number of freckles and an unreasonable curfew.“These novels captured the culture of a particular time in postwar America,” said Richard Robinson, the chief executive of Scholastic, whose book clubs had titles from the Cavanna, du Jardin and Emery oeuvres.You could be self-doubting like Jane Purdy, the protagonist of “Fifteen,” and, nevertheless, end up wearing the ID bracelet of cute green-eyed Stan.My recall of plot details (Stan worked for a dog food delivery service; on an early date with Jane they went to a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco) is encyclopedic.In the late 1990s, she began searching for the Beany Malone series, and was poleaxed by the high prices.It occurred to her that perhaps she wasn’t the only one who wanted to revisit the Ragged Robin drive-in.My recall of character names (Beany Malone’s siblings were Johnny, Mary Fred and Elizabeth) is embarrassing.I wish I could remember “Middlemarch” with similar clarity.