Mae West said, "Few men know how to kiss well: Fortunately, I've always had time to teach them." Arturo Toscanini said, "I kissed my first woman and smoked my first cigarette on the same day. I have never had time for tobacco since."

Even though kissing is considered something simple enough that anyone can do it, most women have experienced stubble burn from a kiss, and some men have had their ears drenched. There are slobberers who leave your face slimed, and there are power kissers who think the harder the smooch is the better.Motivated by a particularly bad kiss in college 10 years ago, Tomima Edmark has written a fascinating little paperback book called "Kissing: Everything You Wanted to Know," (Simon and Schuster, 1991, $6.95). In it she says that kissing can always be improved. It is not only one of the most intimate forms of human contact, it is a very important step to romance. By writing a how-to book, she hopes to help "eradicate poor puckering in our lifetime."

A kiss is defined by Dr. Henry Gibbons as "the anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction," and by Ingrid Bergman as "a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous."

The origin of kissing, it appears, is virtually impossible to document, although there are numerous theories. The safest assumption is that "there is no author of the first kiss. Kissing, like much other good things, is anonymous."

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Bobbie Sherlock and Ray Blazina kissed for 130 hours and 2 minutes at the 1978 "Smoochathon" in Pittsburgh. But the longest kiss was in Chicago in 1984 by Eddie Levin and Delphine Crha, who kissed for 17 days and 10.5 hours.

The longest movie kiss was by Regis Toomey and Jane Wyman in the 1940 release of "You're in the Army Now." It lasted 185 seconds - 4 percent of the movie's length.

Have you ever heard of all the various kissonyms? Buss, canoodle, do a fade-out, first base, gab goober, gather up rouge, love peck, osculate, peck, rub smackers, and smash mouth - to name a few.

The first kiss is the most memorable. As Lord Byron said, "The dearest remembrance will still be the best, Our sweetest memorial the first kiss of love."

In her book, Edmark includes a flow chart to demonstrate the steps of effective kissing, beginning with the decision to kiss. The goal, she says, is to "deliver an impressive first kiss while minimizing the awkward moments." Contrary to popular belief, "lips should not be puckered during a romantic kiss or the lips muscles will contract, forming a hard wrinkled nodule that feels like a doorknob."

Since the nose is the greatest barrier to an effective kiss, it is wise to tilt the head to the right to avoid nose-smashing. And "ending a kiss while you both want more is safer than suffering the embarrassment of having your partner ask you to get off his or her face."

The first and oldest rule of kissing is also the one most often broken - don't kiss and tell. A kiss at the front door should be short. Men do make passes at women who wear glasses, and vice versa. If both people wear glasses, however, it is important to work together to avoid crashing.

Tenderness, a soft voice, music and closed eyes are turn-ons. Bad breath, facial hair stubble, cold or sweaty hands, and open eyes are turn-offs. Most women don't like to kiss men with facial hair for reasons of cleanliness and pain.

Before kissing, avoid foods high in sulfur, such as garlic, fish, horseradish, cabbage, onions, eggs, broccoli, brussels sprouts, coffee, red meat and red hot peppers.

Despite the proliferation of "sociable kissing," only kiss someone if you consider him or her very special. Business kissing is even worse. Some think it is a blunder unless the kissers are close friends outside the workplace. Others think it obscures the rank of command in a company and lessens professionalism. Some think it negatively accentuates gender differences. Some compare it to giving to charity - once you start you'll be expected to give every time you meet.

This book is a winner.