In My Opinion: An Inquiry into the Contemporary Novel

By Orville Prescott | Go to book overview

VII
THE YOUNG DECADENTS:
Capote, Bowles, Buechner, Goyen, Williams, Yorke

"If he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons."-- Samuel Johnson

There is no subject about which people think with more prejudice and more jangled emotions than the excesses of sex. We may live in an age of pseudotolerance and aggressive freedom to speak about matters formerly unspeakable, but few of us are qualified to do so with even a modicum of objectivity. We cannot escape the attitudes prevalent in our social circles when young. A man of seventy-five and a boy of twenty, like parallel lines, can never find an intellectual meeting place on this popular subject--no matter how far they extend their discussion.

Amateur exploration in the works of Freud and The Kinsey Report is not necessarily the beginnings of wisdom. It may provide the foundation for a deliberate effort to attain the humility not to judge and condemn, to escape the moral smugness which too often passes for virtue. But the conviction that sexual conduct is not always subject to rational choice and conscious control, and the recognition of the power of our glands and our personality as conditioned in childhood do not necessarily qual-

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