For a change, an Irish autobiography that is not consumed by drunks, talkative peasants, brutal parents, or the Catholic Church. Originally published as separate volumes in Ireland, with a third volume promised at some future date, O'Brien's (English/Georgetown) autobiography is a celebration--unburdened by even the slightest trace of nostalgia--of the ordinary life as it was actually lived in provincial Ireland of the 1950's and Dublin of the early 1960's. His mother already dead, O'Brien is raised by his grandmother, aunt, and uncle in Lis-more while his father is a schoolteacher in Dublin. O'Brien is especially good at capturing the hesitancies and partial knowledge that a child has of the adult world about him. He describes with near unmatched precision the pleasures of being an altar boy (""it's much more important to have a good funeral than a fine wedding""), and, surprisingly, how American tourists became beacons of freedom with their loud clothing (""shirts like postcards of a tropical paradise"") and their ""not giving a damn"" attitude of life. O'Brien is a poet of adolescent innocence with his uncloying hunger for books and knowledge and is not ashamed to admit being then a fan of Colin Wilson's The Outsider. His autobiography could serve to reconstruct the bus routes, dance halls, and pubs in the land of digs and bedsits in early 1960's Dublin. And his meeting with Mary--the girl who teaches him how to say no to all the comfortable lies--is a high point in modern Irish writing When the local is rendered in careful detail, the story becomes universal. A very precisely Irish book to be read by the world.