Diary of high school days in Greene years

Be True to Your School, by Bob Greene. Atheneum. 331 pp. $18.95. In his 11th and 12th year in school, Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene kept a diary of his social and academic progress, mostly social. This was in central Ohio and the central 1960s. In the rest of the country, the times may have been full of protest and turbulence, but at Greene's school things were pretty complacently hebephrenic.

The diary entries have been edited and, I suspect, the dialogue that has been added has been educed through the rosy haze of memory. Young Bob's father dispenses advice, young Bob's friends go through growing pains, young Bob's girlfriends put him through a series of emotional bubbles, and young Bob gets his first newspaper job.

It's all very pleasant and innocent and refreshing in these present days of compulsory sex education. But it's also a little slow and overlong.

Some parts are very funny and others are evocative of the standard American high school experience. I was personally struck by the lack of anything of real value that happened in Greene's high school experience, until I remembered that nothing much happened in mine, either. It seemed extremely important at the time, of course.

This was 1964 but as far as the diarist and his friends were concerned, it may as well have been 1954. Their concerns are in order (deduced by me) girls, popular music, cars, the end.

Greene, who has written some of the better columns in the Tribune and Esquire magazine, appears to be competing with Bill Cosby and Alan Alda for quintessential American nice-guy status. But all this emphasis on warmth and wry wisdom is diluting the market, especially 330-page tomes like this one.

His previous book, ``Good Morning, Merry Sunshine'' did the same thing: took a nice guy (himself) through the pleasant paces of fatherhood in the same way - warm, compassionate, touching, bemused, and so on. Not quite journalistic Muzak, but close.

Despite its length, ``Be True to Your School'' might serve as a window to a sociological stratum, teen-age life in the Midwest. There is virtually no, repeat no, mention of outside affairs.

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