Guest Blogger Dept.: We welcome back Booth Tarkington, whose 1916 novel Seventeen was, like most of the author’s books at the time, a best-seller. It’s fair to day that it hasn’t aged well; in fact, one wag observed that, if it were to seem relevant today, it should be retitled “Thirteen.” It offers the lovelorn William Sylvanus Baxter, pining with infatuation for the baby-talking Lola Pratt, a summer visitor to William’s midwestern town. The boy is about to join a number of his friends, all vying for Lola’s attention, on a picnic excursion.
IN THE MORNING SUNSHINE, Mrs. Baxter stood at the top of the steps of the front porch, addressing her son, who listened impatiently and edged himself a little nearer the gate every time he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
“Willie,” she said, “you must really pay some attention to the laws of health, or you’ll never live to be an old man.”
“I don’t want to live to be an old man,” said William, earnestly. “I’d rather do what I please now and die a little sooner.”
“You talk very foolishly,” his mother returned. “Either come back and put on some heavier THINGS or take your overcoat.”
“My overcoat!” William groaned. “They’d think I was a lunatic, carrying an overcoat in August!”
“Not to a picnic,” she said.
“Mother, it isn’t a picnic, I’ve told you a hunderd times! You think it’s one those ole-fashion things YOU used to go to—sit on the damp ground and eat sardines with ants all over ‘em? This isn’t anything like that; we just go out on the trolley to this farm-house and have noon dinner, and dance all afternoon, and have supper, and then come home on the trolley. I guess we’d hardly of got up anything as out o’ date as a picnic in honor of Miss PRATT!”
Mrs. Baxter seemed unimpressed.