The Rachel Papers are diaries kept by Charles Highway, about to be twenty (apparently a dividing line as ambiguously regional as the Mason-Dixon -- after twenty you're a man or a mensch and your sexual topography is all downhill) and these journals are a continuation of his Conquests and Techniques: A Synthesis preparing him along with Blake and two Edna O'Briens for the conquest of the title -- Rachel. Amis has written a scapegrace and shamelessly funny book and you can hardly think of another in which the unaesthetic glories and indignities of postadolescent, or pretwenty as he would put it, performance have been charted with such explicit awfulness -- itch by twitch -- even his armpits ""hum."" But there's a little more to all these things which ""come and go"" in the name of ""experience"" as his father puts it; not much story to be sure and very little allure -- but a certain commentary on his so sharply demarcated age group all the way down to the hippie subculture. Amis is a devastating observer and he also has a remarkable recording ear for inflection, vernacular and cant. But for the most part it is sex, pure sex, impure sex, which you might say is precision tooled. The ultimate question is whether you can convert brass into pure gold, since some people will not necessarily find that ""The nastier a thing is, the funnier it gets.