cies created vulgarity and the moronicrnmind that accepts it? To merntelevision is just one more facet ofrnthat considerable segment of ourrncivilizahon that never had any standardrnbut the soft buck [Novemberrn22, 1950].rnRight. And as long as Raymond Chandlerrnmakes with what he called the “magic”rnand the “music,” he will alwas havernan audience. Chandler respected whatrnHammett had accomplished in fichon,rnbut he wouldn’t have liked his letters anyrnbetter than they deserve.rn/.(). Tate is a profensor of English atrnDowling College on Long Island.rnA Life in Sketchesrnby Bill CrokernTravels With My Royal:rnA Memoir of the Writing Lifernby Robert LaxaltrnReno and Las Vegas:rnLlniversitv of Nevada Press;rn216pp.,$2L9SrnIf Nevada can be said to have a firstrnfamily equivalent to the Kennedys ofrnMassachusetts, that family is the Laxalts.rnThis immigrant Basque clan of a century’srnresidence has given America a U.S.rnsenator (Paul Laxalt, now rehred) and arnpoet laureate, Paul’s late brother Robert,rnwho turned the Basques’ experience ofrnthe West into literature.rnRobert Laxalt (1923-2001) was bom inrnAlturas, California, the of six childrenrnof Dominique and Therese Laxalt, immigrantsrnwho hustled through the Depressionrnby everything from bootlegging tornsheep ranching to the operation of thernsmall Basque Hotel in Carson Cit\ Nevada.rnLaxalt grew up there in a NormanrnTo Subscribern(800) 877-5459rnRockwell West, haunting the local poolrnhall as w ell as the public librar)’, surroundedrnby a busy ranching economy and itsrncolorful characters. He herded sheep withrnhis father and uncles, attended the Universityrnof Nevada at Reno, and worked as arnUPI reporter covering state government inrnCarson Cit’. Since Carson City is Nevada’srncapital, the author was, from an earlyrnage, acuteU’ aware of the political and culturalrnlife of his state. Brother Paul usedrnthis political awareness and familiarit)’ as arnspringboard to a national polihcal careerrnthat eentuall made him a close confidantrnof President Ronald Reagan. Robertrnalso derived much of his writerly materialrnfrom it.rnWorking in both fiction and nonfiction,rnLaxalt devoted 17 books —notablyrnSweet Promised Land (1957) and A Manrnin the Wheatfield (1964)—and numerousrnarticles to the Basque culture in the Westrnand its European antecedent. He had arnlong tenure as a National Geographic correspondent,rncrafting pieces about thernWest, esjjeciallv the Basque sheepherdersrnof the Great Basin, and he was nominatedrnfor two Pulitzer Prizes for the novels ArnCup of Tea in Pamplona (1985) and ThernBasque Hotel (1989). Laxalt’s last bookrn(he died in March) was Travels With MyrnRoyal: A Memoir of the Writhig Life. Thern”Royal” was the tvpewriter Laxalt’s motherrnhad bought for her children to composernthe themes they were assigned inrnschool. Laxalt employed this venerablernmachine to the end, as he traveled thernworld and churned out his books. Thernvolume, set in large print and running torn216 pages, is a collechon of 32 short vignettesrnwith such titles as “BootleggingrnDays,” “Sheepherding Days,” “Pool HallrnDays,” and “Reporting Days” (a literaryrntip of the hat to H.L. Mencken’s famousrnDays trilog}’).rn’I’herc are certainly a great number ofrndays in a 77-year life; the problem is thatrnl,axalt is not much gien to detail inrnrecording them. These biographicalrnsnapshots are shallow and replete withrncardboard characters, cen when theyrnhappen to be Laxalt’s own flesh andrnblood. The author seems to be usingrnthese bare .sketches to show off his tersernprose st”le, as if he were a high-school kidrntrying to win an essay contest.rnClearly, Laxalt’s understated stle owesrnmuch to Ernest Hemingway, whom Laxaltrnmentions a couple of times along thernway. The following passage from thernsketch entitled “Abodes” (about a trip tornFrance to research and write a book)rncould almost have been lifted from Hemingwarns posthumously published A MoveablernFeast, a memoir of his Parisian apprenticeshiprndays:rnIt was winter, the villa was cold andrnbare, and the kitchen facilities werernprimitive, l l i e only heat was fromrna lone fireplace. The villa was cynicallyrnnamed “Lsker Ona,” meaningrn”Cood Thanks” in Basque. Wernpromptiy renamed it “No Thanks”rnand went looking for anotherrnabode. . . . Warming my fingersrnover the steam rising from my coffeerncup proved unsatistactory, sorn]o’ce improvised a solution. Shernbought a pair of flannel gloves andrncut off die fingers halflength. ThatrnsoKed my problem, except for therndays when the cold froze mv hpewriterrnkeys.rnAll that’s missing from Hemingwax’ (apartrnfrom flic distinctive prose) is a warm cafernwith cheap wine.rnThis is not to deny Travels With MyrnRoyal its charms. There are amusing storiesrnabout National Geographic’s factcheckingrnregimen, which went so far asrnsending fact-checkers abroad to do onsiternresearch; the over-a-cliff wreck of arnmule train packing into the Crand Canyon,rnwith the wranglers comically stri’-rning to save the beer; and (in the vignettern”My Two Uncle Petes”), some fine characterrnsketches of several of Laxalt’s morerncolorful relatives. There are also periodofrnfine writing. Here, Laxaltrncontemplates the West of his father’s generationrnthrough the elder man’s eyes:rnAnd suddenly before me I .saw thernWest rising up at dawn vifli anrnawesome vastness of deserts andrnmight}’ mountain ranges. 1 saw arnband of sheep wending their wayrndown a loneK mountain ravine ofrnsagebrush and pine, and I smelledrntheir dust and heard their mutedrnbleating and the loveh tinkle ofrntheir bells. 1 saw a man in cruderngarb with a walking stick followingrnafter his dog, and once he pausedrnto mark the way of the land. ‘I’heiirnI saw a craggcd face that that laudrnhad filled with hope and torn withrnpain, had changed from young tornold and in the end had claimed.rnAnd then I did know it.rnBill Croke writes from Codv, Wyoming.rn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn