Autobiographical ""novels"" succeed in two ways: either as exotic memories which the average reader could never have experienced but is delighted to enjoy vicariously, as with Isherwood's Berlin Stories; or as heightened documents of ""real"" life which induce what Melville called ""the shock of recognition."" Frank Conroy's Stop-Time belongs in this second category. Arranged more or less as a series of independent short stories or as arias on a common theme--the tribulations of an American youth during the Thirties and Forties--the book makes a striking impression, both for the accuracy and flavor of its everyday details and implicit social comments, and through its technical assurance. Conroy is a thoroughly professional writer, tough and lyrical and genuinely adept at creating the drama of understatement (Hemingway's Michigan tales are the guide here), as well as the peculiar poignancy and hard-edged humor of the Salinger generation. But he has his own individuality, most apparent in the telling characterizations of his slovenly appealing mother, his handsome and ambling stepfather, and a variety of other adults or adolescents who crowd around the young Conroy as he undergoes the traditional rite de passage of disrupted family life, boyhood miseries and marvels, mixed-up schooling, and contrasted adventures in Florida, New York, and Europe. A mirror of growingup, of emotional survival, upsettingly reflective of us all.