The renowned behaviorist's memories of his first twenty-four years reflect both affection for the shape of vanished certainties and irritation a the dusty answers which the northern Pennsylvania boondocks yielded to the eager, muddled intelligence of young Burrhus Frederic Skinner. His bald, underplayed, often formless narrative is interspersed with odd scavengings of scrapbook materials: schoolboy themes, journals, letters from camp, newspaper dippings, college compositions. Few personalities emerge with much vividness; only a few events--notably the death of an inspiring teacher--rouse any real struggle to express emotion. Yet situations come through with fierce clarity: the unacknowledged rivalries of grandparents, the general family shipwreck after the death of Fred's younger brother (the event itself passes in a curious haze), the misery of a dying small town. The story ends with the collapse of Fred's literary ambitions--encouraged during his college years by no less a personage than Robert Frost--and the dawning of a new interest in psychology. A strange chronicle, unprettified but moving in its juxtaposition of a distinguished figure and the former self toward whom he obviously feels a great many conflicting responses: protectiveness, impatient condescension, deep identification.