One Writer’s Life
Travels With My Royal: A Memoir of the Writing Life
Robert Laxalt’s memoir takes readers on a literary tour inside the mind of one of Nevada’s finest and most prolific novelists. Travels With My Royal: A Memoir of the Writing Life is a beautiful book—full of humor and free of hubris.
Laxalt may be best known for having chronicled the lives of Basque immigrants to Nevada in such books as Sweet Promised Land and The Basque Hotel. Reading his memoir, which is expected to come out in May, is like having a chat with the author on subjects ranging from his childhood to the birth of each of his books.
Travels With My Royal invokes author John Steinbeck’s account of his trek across the nation, Travels With Charley. But Laxalt’s companion on his journey is an old manual typewriter, a portable Royal that his mother purchased for her children. Laxalt’s adventures include growing up in Carson City during Prohibition, being a staff correspondent for United Press and working at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Many of the short scenes end up indelibly etched on the reader’s mind. I won’t soon forget Laxalt’s tale of a youthful visit to one of Carson City’s three brothels.
“They were more like social centers than dens of iniquity, places for state workers to gather for a drink before going home,” Laxalt writes. After being taunted by schoolmates, young Laxalt agreed to visit a brothel one Saturday night.
“A girl in a gauzy dress walked up to my chair, murmured hello in a dulcet voice, and sat down on my lap. I was terrified and speechless, looking up only once into a powdered face with red lipstick, mascaraed eyes and blond curls.”
Though his friends offered to pay his way with “Daisy,” Laxalt declined, trying not to “hurt Daisy’s feelings.” Laxalt’s stories are infused with this kind of gentle humor, pathos and compassion. Laxalt liked people. And he liked to write.
"Once having decided back then to become a writer, I hadn’t the remotest idea of what was involved in the writer’s life," he relates in a postscript. "I was to learn the answers through the years of growing up and the years that followed. They came in a slow and often painful process that never ended. I suspect they will continue to come all of a writer’s life, until the day he puts his pen aside for the last time."