Jones, a veteran cultural reporter for Newsweek, writes with muted confidence about his difficult childhood, during which the emotional ups and downs of his mostly-single mom seemed monumental, and his undependable, alcoholic father kept him in a state of disorientation. This at-times touching self-portrait depicts a quiet, quirky, self-contained little boy suffering quietly while surrounded by indulging elderly relatives, as well as a mother who hides her disappointment with a middle-class sense of superiority. Unfortunately, little happens in this memoir beyond a taboo-broaching divorce, and Jones fails to make anything significant out of everyday moments of love and tension; curiously, the prospect of engaging the big cultural issues, when it arises, is often set aside. (Though Jones grew up in the South during the turbulent 1950s, he tidily encapsulates ""race and bigotry"": ""they were everywhere and nowhere, like an odorless, tasteless gas""; similarly, religion to him was ""as water is to a fish."") Though admirably straightforward, Jones's portrayal is so flat as to give readers little to hold onto. 22 b&w photos.