Shrewdly disarming the reviewers who pounce on the transparently autobiographical novel, the author cheerfully admits that this is indeed so. He then goes on in a mercifully short first person narrative to describe those always self-fascinating years when (to borrow the blurb copy's perishable phrase) he was ""only beginning to find out who he really is and where he is going."" He's an Italian-American in Rome studying opera, stringing for Time-Life, sleeping with an English girl who has dropped out of marriage with' a young husband turning homosexual. . . . Their affair is dismal to read about and her alley-cat appetites and dispassionate detachment from her baby make her thoroughly unsympathetic; when the author-narrator lets her go and writes about Rome and Romans and expatriates, it flashes off the page as real and funny and tragi-comic. He's a very light tenor whose dreams of operatic glory fizzle out on stage in an Italian music hall where he's assigned to sing ""Go Down, Moses"" in the middle of a madly swirling troop of dancers done up as Hawaiians. So it's half and hall with the last half the better part.