Anyone who's been watching the national political scene and concluding despairingly that it's all cynicism and corruption should take heart from this account of a Dartmouth professor's two-year stint in the Vermont state senate. Elected despite the fact that he was an ""outsider"" (not a native), Smallwood found his brief political career both personally rewarding and legislatively productive. Though a neophyte, he introduced a tough child-abuse reporting law which the legislature enacted. He also helped pass a right-to-know (government access) bill and a Capability and Development Plan, part of a comprehensive state land-use proposal. As a writer, Smallwood unhappily tends to ""Gee whiz"" and ""Gadzooks,"" which sometimes makes him sound a bit naive. But he observed a lot--the leadership structure and procedural rules of the senate; the decor in the Montpelier senate chambers (""elegance, style, charm, warmth and quiet dignity""); and the importance of local issues and attitudes in the political process (""Good grief, the perils of the deer herd in Vermont politics!""). Above all he was impressed by the ""honest, industrious, and dedicated legislators""; at no point did he feel the urge to rock the boat. Not riveting but benign and affable.