is a perfect blind behind which a writernwho doesn’t understand his charactersnor the world, and therefore has nothingnof interest to reveal about them, cannhide. Because sex is an expression ofnthe inner passions of the soul a character’snsex acts are assumed to be significantnin themselves—to reveal somethingnimportant about the character. Actually,nin the hands of our mindless author sexnis just another event, another fact thatnhe doesn’t understand. But perhaps thenreader won’t notice.nYou can’t do that with food. Thenpleasure of sex is—as often as it is notn—that of the fulfillment of a desire. Ifnit is not endowed with any special sense,nor symbolism, it is a rather simplenevent. As Borges has said, “At the climacticnmoment of copulation, all mennare the same man.” Eating has muchnmore potential for genuine appreciativenpleasure. The pleasures involved are ofna naturally more varied type. There isnfar more diversity in cuisines than innmeaningless sex. The writer mustnunderstand enough about human naturento understand what gives pleasurenin various circumstances, moods andnsettings if he is to write a good eatingnscene. A good eating scene requires thatnyou have something to say about yourncharacters and the world. And thesenscenes would, under our simple reform,nhave to be good. It is much easier tontell a bad eating scene from a good onenthan to tell a bad sex scene from a goodnone, because all sex scenes, especiallynadolescent coming-of-age sex scenes,nare alike. Writers with nothing to saynwon’t be able to hide behind bad sexnscenes anymore. They will either developnan interesting perspective or theynwill have to finish law school.nXhe unbearably boring books thatnare the subject of this article are primenexamples of the problem we have beenndiscussing. Both are memoirs of youth.n(Joel Agee’s book recounts his adolescencenin postwar East Germany, tonwhich his mother and stepfather, bothncommunists, emigrated in 1948, andnBailey was one of several thousand Englishnchildren who were sent to Americanto avoid World War II.) Both shownsuch a lack of capacity to extract anynmeaning, or at least amusement, fromnthe author’s experiences that I cannotnguess how the authors decided what toninclude and what to leave out. FortunatelynI don’t have to guess. Both writersnmore or less tell us that they wrote downneverything they could remember.nAnthony Bailey is a regular at ThenNew Yorker. His is—literally—thenmemoir of a seven-year-old. Imaginen152 pages of “The Talk of the Town”nrestricted to the doings of a seven-yearoldnwho is tediously fascinated by thenslightest difference in manners betweennthe country he writes about and hisnown, and who, furthermore, doesn’tnreally remember things very well.nJoel Agee, the son of James Agee, isnfiction editor of Harper’s, His booknseems to be more interesting because itnis a little better written, it wastes moreninteresting material and its faults arenmore typical, thus more informative. Itnillustrates some of the main problemsnwith the sort of random writing we havenbeen discussing. Agee is a great practitionernof what may be called significancenby association. This is the attempt toncharge one’s book with import by mentioningncertain well-known events thatnthe author may not understand or aboutnwhich he may have nothing original ton”Vl’wetvi. V