Monday, January 05, 2009


Books, Larry McMurtry, Simon & Schuster, 2008, 259 pp

It turns out that I'd only read three of McMurtry's books before reading Books, which is odd because I feel like I know this author very well. Of course I've seen the movie versions of The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment. I read Evening Star (1992) and disliked it intensely all the way through but suddenly, inexplicably liked it at the very end. I read Lonesome Dove (1985) for which he won the Pulitzer Prize and loved every paragraph. On the strength of that book alone, I fell in love with McMurtry.

I always planned to read more of his fiction but so far have not. I read his memoir of driving the interstates (Roads, 2000) and that was great for me because I was doing a lot of travel on the interstates myself at the time.

I like McMurtry because he clearly likes people, both men and women, and he revels in quirkiness; he doesn't judge; he doesn't expect everyone to be just like everyone else. He may be the Mark Twain of the 20th century.

Books is a memoir of his life as a book dealer. I have long wanted to visit his vast bookstore in Archer, TX. In Books we learn the story of how that store came to be. McMurtry is now 72 years old and he writes Books like an old man telling stories. It is sketchy, full of people no one outside the world of rare books and book collecting would know. The book men are some the quirkiest people ever. It is almost as if McMurtry is reminiscing for his own pleasure more than anything else.

But I liked it. It put me into that world. It is a niche, like Americana music or comic book collecting. Near the end he talks a bit about the fate of publishing, books, bookstores and book readers. He becomes a bit sentimental ( I mean, he IS Larry McMurtry), but he is no fool. Kind of like his characters.

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