THE UNEASY CHAIR
by WALLACE STEGNER 464 pages. Doubleday. $12.50.
Nothing was ordinary about Bernard DeVoto. Even his homeliness was spectacular, compounded of defiantly bulging eyes and a nose broadened in a baseball accident. Girls from Ogden, Utah, remembered him all their lives as "the ugliest, most disagreeable boy you ever saw." Also the smartest.
Legends surrounded his beginnings. His mother breast-fed him until he was past two. His father taught him to read before he was three, with the help of Pope's translation of the Iliad. It was as if DeVoto were his...