Please Don't Eat the Daisies

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This article is about the book by Jean Kerr. For the film, see Please Don't Eat the Daisies (film). For the TV series, see Please Don't Eat the Daisies (TV series).
First edition

Please Don't Eat the Daisies (New York: Doubleday, 1957)[1][2] is a best-selling collection of humorous essays by American humorist and playwright Jean Kerr about suburban living and raising four boys. The essays do not have a plot or through-storyline, but the book sold so well it was later adapted into a film starring Doris Day and David Niven. The film was later adapted into a television series starring Patricia Crowley and Mark Miller. Mrs. Kerr followed up this book with two later best-selling collections, The Snake Has All the Lines and Penny Candy.

Contents[edit]

Introduction[edit]

The introduction serves as yet another humorous essay, as Kerr describes how she came to be a writer. “I won't say that my early efforts were crowned with glory. Oh, I'd say it, all right, but could I make it stick? When my first play was produced in New York, Louis Kronenberger wrote in Time, with a felicity it took me only ten years to appreciate, that "Leo G. Carroll brightens up Mrs. Kerr's play in much the same way that flowers brighten a sickroom." (I guess this is what they mean by the nick of Time.) I don't know why this and similar compliments for Leo G. Carroll didn't stay my hand forever. As someone pointed out recently, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation” (Kerr 1957).

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies[edit]

Kerr begins the book with her classic take on parenting four small boys. “We are being very careful with our children. They'll never have to pay a psychiatrist twenty-five dollars an hour to find out why we rejected them. We'll tell them why we rejected them. Because they're impossible, that's why” (Kerr 1957).

How To Be a Collector’s Item[edit]

The trials and tribulations of an author who hopes her letters are being collected for future publication. “If you have a friend who is a playwright, it's simpler. You begin collecting him immediately after his first failure. As letter writers, playwrights are at the top of their powers at this moment. For color, passion, and direct revelation of character you simply can't beat a letter from a playwright who has just had a four-day flop” (Kerr 1957).

Greenwich, Anyone?[edit]

Kerr's take on the popular trend of writers moving to the country to reconnect with nature. “The thing that worries me is that I am so different from other writers, Connecticut is just another state to me. And nature -well, nature is just nature. When I see a tree whose leafy mouth is pressed against the earth's sweet flowing breast, I think, "Well, that's a nice-looking oak," but it doesn't change my way of life” (Kerr 1957).

How To Decorate in One Easy Breakdown[edit]

Kerr gives her own helpful hints on how to redecorate on a budget. “The problem confronting the average harassed housewife today is not whether she's going to decorate. Of course she's going to decorate. The problem is when. I find that circumstances vary, but in general it is safe to list three situations in which it is advisable to re-do the living room: (1) when you have the money; (2) when you don't have the money but are planning to go on The $64,000 Question, where you will astonish all with your knowledge of rare bindings; (3) when you don't have the money and there's not a chance in the world you're going to get the money but if you have to look at that speckled blue wallpaper one more day you will go smack out of your mind” (Kerr 1957).

Dogs That Have Known Me[edit]

The author's experiences with dogs, large and small, through the years. “I never meant to say anything about this, but the fact is that I have never met a dog that didn't have it in for me. You take Kelly, for instance. He's a wire-haired fox terrier and he's had us for three years now” (Kerr 1957).

The Kerr-Hilton[edit]

One of the principal sources for the later film, this essay tells how Kerr and her husband acquired their house in Larchmont, New York, complete with gargoyles, secret panels, and a 24-bell carillon that played the duet from Carmen at noon. “Ever since Gilbert was born we had been looking for a larger house, and we knew what we wanted. I wanted a house that would have four bedrooms for the boys, all of them located some distance from the living room-say in the next county somewhere” (Kerr 1957).

The Care and Feeding of Producers[edit]

How to survive getting a play produced. “To the secular mind, it seems clear enough that a play gets bad notices for any one of the three reasons: (1) the script was bad; (2) the production was bad; (3) the critics are idiots. The producer has a different theory altogether. He grants, heaven knows, that there isn't a critic alive with an I.Q. higher than 78, but nevertheless he doesn't blame the reviewers. He blames all his troubles, past and present, on "that opening-night audience” (Kerr 1957).

One Half of Two on the Aisle[edit]

Musings from the self-proclaimed most experienced audience member in America. “In my short and merry life in the theatre, I have discovered that there are two sharply contrasting opinions about the place of the drama critic. While in some quarters it is felt that the critic is just a necessary evil, most serious-minded, decent, talented theatre people agree that the critic is an unnecessary evil. However, if there is some room for argument about the value of the critic, there is none whatever about the value of the critic's wife. To the producer, in particular, it is painful enough that the reviewer must bring his own glum, presence to the theatre, but the thought that he will also bring his wife and that she, too, will occupy a free seat is enough to cool the cockles of his heart and send him back on a soft diet” (Kerr 1957).

Don Brown’s Body[edit]

A parody of Stephen Vincent Benet's "John Brown's Body" which mixes in Mike Hammer and gangsters. “She lived on the St. Regis roof. Sooner or later some wise guy of a cop is gonna find her up there and make her come down. But tonight was ours. She opened her good eye. There was no mistaking that invitation. Her lips were like fresh ketchup on a white tablecloth. My heart was throbbing like a stubbed toe. She was waiting for me, a hungry thing. Now there was nothing between us but us. I spoke: "You were a member of the Carney gang at the time that One-Finger Matthews put the finger on Soft-Spot Sullivan, who was at that time going under the name of Samuel X. Sullivan and who knifed Maurie Magnusson in the back of the Easy-Way Garage. The Queen Mary docked at eleven forty-six on the twenty-third, and Joey Jacobson was found in an abandoned milk truck two years later. What do you know about Don Brown?" Her eyes found mine. Down below, the great idiot city went its old familiar way: birth and death, love and lust, Martin and Lewis” (Kerr 1957).

Toujours Tristesse[edit]

A take-off of Francoise Sagan's A Certain Smile. “Suddenly I was wildly happy. I had an overwhehning intuition that one day I would be dead. These large eyes, this bony child's body would be consigned to the sweet earth. Everything spoke of it: the lonely cooing of a solitary pigeon overhead, the stately bong bong bong of the cathedral chimes, the loud horn of the motorbus that grazed my thigh” (Kerr 1957).

Snowflaketime[edit]

Kerr muses on the state of school productions of holiday shows through the years. “Our eight-year-old, who was wrapped in tissue paper and red ribbons and was supposed to be a present, was very distressed because two of the toy soldiers waved at the audience. As my husband remarked, that's the kind of thing they could have cleaned up if they had taken the show to New Rochelle for a couple of weeks. But I imagine they were afraid of those out-of-town losses” (Kerr 1957).

How to Get the Best of Your Children[edit]

Another essay on the joys of parenting. “The Everest of my ambition is to teach my children the simple precepts of existence—"Keep your fingers out of the plate," "Don't wear your underwear to bed," "Keep out of Federal institutions," —and somehow arrive at golden middle age with my larynx intact. No matter how I struggle to keep my voice out of that piercing upper register where, I am told, only dogs can hear it, my boys can always discover the one little chink in my armor of control” (Kerr 1957).

Where Did You Put the Aspirin?[edit]

Again, Kerr muses on coping with children. “I'd be the last one to say a word against our modern child psychologists. They try, they really try. I know that. So I am prepared to swallow a number of their curious notions, including even the thought-provoking statement that "children are our Friends." This premise may be open to question, or even to hysterical laughter, but it probably does contain a germ of truth. What I have no patience with is the growing tendency among psychologists to insist that children are really people, little adults just like the rest of us, only smaller. Really, the impression you get in some quarters is that the only difference between children and grownups is that children don't drink, smoke, or play bridge” (Kerr 1957).

Aunt Jean’s Marshmallow Fudge Diet[edit]

One of many essays Kerr wrote on the subject of diets and dieting. “If you have formed the habit of checking on every new diet that comes along, you will find that, mercifully, they all blur together, leaving you with only one definite piece of information: french-fried potatoes are out. But once in a great while a diet will stick in your mind. I'll never forget one I read about last summer. It urged the dieter to follow up his low-calorie meals by performing a series of calisthenics in the bathtub. No, not in the bathroom. I read it twice, and it said in the bathtub. What a clever plan! Clearly, after you've broken both your arms you won't be able to eat much (if at all) and the pounds will just melt away” (Kerr 1957).

Operation Operation[edit]

Kerr's take on hospital stays, doctors, nurses, and the need to insist on patients' rights. “It is the custom in most hospitals for the night nurse to wake all her patients before she goes off duty at 6 o'clock in the morning and present each of them with a basin of lukewarm water and a bar of soap. Then, a few seconds later, the incoming day nurse rushes in and takes everybody's temperature. This is a very sensible procedure because most people say they notice a very definite rise in temperature (together with a tendency to break down and sob) merely at being required to look at a basin of water at 6 o'clock in the morning, and the day nurse now has something concrete to put on her chart. She doesn't have to feel a failure” (Kerr 1957).

Index[edit]

In yet another satirical jab, Kerr included an index in the book, but with only the page numbers from the original magazines in which the pieces appeared.

Reception[edit]

The book achieved the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list in February, 1958.[3] Kerr’s “wryly observant style” reminded Washington Post critic Richard L. Coe of James Thurber, E.B. White, and Cornelia Otis Skinner.[4]

Kirkus Review notes, “Funny and refreshing, her maternal moments will find a sympathetic hysteria among others bedeviled by strident striplings and a perfect antidote toward accepted currently child raising programs: her take-offs, of Sagan, in Don Brown's Body, and her incisive words on writers (like E.B. White- leve majesti indeed) who move to the country -- these are gifted and good. Each short piece, from the introduction to the index, is loaded with laugh-out-loud-remarks, situations and ideas.” [5]

Adaptations[edit]

In 1960 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released a film adapted from the book, directed by Charles Walters with a screenplay by Isobel Lennart. It starred Doris Day, David Niven, Janis Paige, Spring Byington, Richard Haydn, Patsy Kelly, and Jack Weston.[6] A storyline was created for the film involving Day as a housewife married to a newly hired New York drama critic (Niven). In his first assignment he must review a new show produced by his best friend, and he is forced to pan it. Meanwhile, the search for a new home for the family leaves Day dealing with the kids, carpenters, decorators, and the new neighbors by herself.

The film was in turn adapted as a television series that ran from 1965 to 1967 (58 half-hour episodes) starring Patricia Crowley and Mark Miller.

References[edit]

External links[edit]