From first-person novels to fictionalized memoirs to family history, once-removed (Kathleen and Frank), Isherwood has been slouching toward autobiography--and here at last are what seem to be the goods: Christopher's 1930s, in letters, journals, and uncloseted introspection. Journeys. To Berlin and the Cosy Corner in search of guilt-free, openly marketed ""boy-love."" (Enter Bubi, Otto, Heinz, and the Hirschfeld Institute for Sexual Science.) Through Europe with Heinz on a doomed, four-year quest for a non-German passport and refuge from Nazi conscription. To a China of bombs and mobs (a travel book contract) with near-alter ego Wystan Auden, then on to American expatriation. When not in bed, in transit, or talking poll: tics, Christopher is writing and thinking about writing: advice from ""babylike"" mentor E. M. Forster, play collaborations with Auden, novice film-scripting, and--above all--the Berlin stories. Here are the clefs lo those romans (and later ones), introducing the originals of Sally Bowles and Mr. Norris, explaining--with an oddly apologetic or defensive air--each of the young novelist's reshapings or distortions of the facts. Christopher's private words and actions receive the same objective, often derisive, dissection. (""The rest is posing"" takes care of one ardent diary entry.) The third-person convention--the youth is always ""Christopher,"" never ""I""--that was so appropriate and poignant in Kathleen and Frank now seems uncomfortably clinical and evasive; past feelings are filtered, studied, and labeled rather than recaptured. Passion does surface in Christopher's correspondence (especially with Stephen Spender) and in Isherwood's present-day homosexual militance, but readers should not expect the emotional pull of Goodbye to Berlin or Down There on a Visit. They can expect the undiminished powers of crisply witty description, literary giant's en deshabille, and an indispensable guide to one novelist's creative process--which should, but may not, be enough.