The genius behind the Kinks escorts a fictional interlocutor through the first three decades of his life, with much of the perversity, charm, and uneasy wit of his most ambitious lyrics. A couple of decades in the future, the all-powerful Corporation sends a disturbed young employee out to assemble the details of Ray Davies's illustrious career. The Davies this narrator meets is a seedy, manipulative, not necessarily reliable old recluse whose motives for unburdening himself to a stranger are possibly sinister. Davies, the character, announces that he might not be telling the truth; Davies, the author, is erecting a whole lot of complications around a fairly standard memoir of the irrational process of becoming and remaining a pop star. He describes efficiently the familiar clichÇs of British-Invasion- rocker background: rebellious postwar childhood, art college, rapture over American blues records, rapid escalation to fame in the wake of the Beatles' success. What kept the Kinks from slinking back into obscurity was Davies's ability to write songs like ``Sunny Afternoon'' and ``Waterloo Sunset,'' which are so evocative partly because their first-person narrators, as in this book, at once represent Davies and a fictional persona. Happily, Davies knows which of his songs are of lasting merit, and he discusses their genesis insightfully. Because of bad recording and publishing deals signed in 1964, at the start of the Kinks' career, he spent most of the rest of the '60s in legal wrangles that left him somewhat traumatized; Davies conveys the distressing slapstick of having a prolific, internationally successful band and little to show for it. He takes us only through 1973, which marked an emotional and aesthetic nadir, and then, in the fictional frame, describes his own death. Given the elaborate disavowals of sincerity, it's unclear whether Ray's really this dour or whether he's just breaking for a sequel. An overweening but entertaining mess.