My Favorite Bibliophile…


A couple of years ago Husband and I took a road trip to North Texas to check out family history on my father’s side.  We visited small country cemeteries, a beautiful old courthouse, a log cabin and Uz, a town near where my grandfather was born.  All that is left of Uz is a state historical marker.  My great-great-grandmother, who is buried in the area,  kept a diary from 1876 to 1888.  Today I think she would have been a blogger and would have definitely embraced Facebook.  But that may be another post!

Since we were so close, I had to visit Archer City, where my favorite bibliophile – Larry McMurtry – lives.  He was born near Archer City and grew up in the area where his father ranched.  The first stop was the Royal Theater.

Crone at the Royal Theater

As a not-so-famous-bibliophile myself I love to visit used bookstores wherever I travel as I seek bargains and rare treasures, so a visit to Archer City was perfect.  The small town (population 1848) is home to Booked Up Inc., a series of bookstores owned by McMurtry.  They are right in downtown Archer City near the courthouse and scattered around in several buildings.  There is a guide to tell you what type of books are in each building.  The day we were there it was quiet and we usually found that we were the only customers.  When I found my first treasure, “The Golden Man” by Victor W. von Hagen, there was not even a sales person around  to take my money.  Then I noticed something posted by the front door directing me to go to building number one to pay.  It was like being in someone’s personal library with books stacked high on shelves (ladders for he brave) and organized loosely by category.  There were no other literary related items for sale.  And we would have to go elsewhere for coffee.   The other buildings were similar:  some smaller, some larger but all smelled of warm dust and old paper.

The last stop was building number one where indeed  I was able to pay for my treasures and encountered Leo, the bookstore cat.  Dare I think that since Larry McMurtry does maintain a home in Archer City not far from his book stores that he might actually be in town and stop by?  Alas, a sign read, “When will Mr. McMurtry be here?  At his whim.”  I confess that I did persuade Husband to drive ever so slowly by his home before we left town.

I have read  many of his books, fiction and non-fiction, and  it would be hard to choose my favorites, but these would be at the top of my list.

“Lonesome Dove”
“Terms of Endearment”
“In a Narrow Grave”
“Duane’s Depressed”
“Texasville”
“Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen”

Recently I was surprised to learn that at age 72 he had married the widow of fellow author and friend, Ken Kesey, on April 29,  2011.  James McAuley interviewed him last year for an article in The New Yorker titled “Larry McMurtry’s Dying Breed:  A Visit to Archer City.”

McMurtry, in addition to being a novelist, essayist and screenwriter,  has been a book collector for many years and has bought out the stock of several old and prestigious  bookstores.  In one non-fiction book he includes a chapter titled “Book Scouting” and explains it this way.

I’m sure that I’ve had as much pleasure in the hundreds (or maybe thousands) of bookshops I’ve been in, going along row by row and shelf by shelf looking for a title or an edition that I’ve never seen, as my father did culling and inspecting the many cattle herds he bought from.  The process of selection, weighing the qualities of various animals, in his mind, was a work that required judgment, sophistication, experience, and – if you will- taste.

And that, essentially is what I try to bring to the composition of my book shops: taste, which if applied persistently will result in an interesting mixture of books, none of which is undesirable or unappealing.”

McMurtry has often written about the changing world of the dying breed of the cowboy and co-wrote the screenplay for “Brokeback Mountain.”  He also hints that  book collectors may be a dying breed as well.

How we read is changing.  I like the digital world for blogging, news, articles, shopping, reservations/tickets and some of the social media, but I must have my books.  They are comforting to me.  I can take them with me anywhere and anytime, touch them, make notes in them, mark them with a favorite bookmark, stack them on the floor or make room for one more in a book shelf.  When I give one as a gift, I write a dated message inside.

Perhaps I am a dying breed also.  Maybe I am in good company!

32 thoughts on “My Favorite Bibliophile…

  1. Oh how I have enjoyed this post! I was at your side as you went through all those wonderful buildings of books! Thank you so much for educating me on Mr. McMurtry, I so enjoyed reading this. Give me a book anyday……….especially one read by many others prior to myself, and I am happy. I agree the digital world is wonderful for many things……….but give me my books!

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  2. Nice post.
    There’s nothing quite like browsing through bookstores, the older and dingier the better.
    Lonesome Dove has to be one of the best tv mini series ever made and the book’s a great read too.

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  3. I am with you, Jonel. The digital era has brought with it stunning advancements of all kinds; sometimes I will be driving and think, “I wonder how long that conversation would have taken if I couldn’t have texted it?” Expediency is pleasant, for sure, but like yourself, I MUST have my books tangible. I need to feel the paper slip between my fingers, hug the book when its touched my heart, and inhale the scent of inspiration wafting off the pages. None of that can happen with an electronic device; it just can’t!

    This little place you photographed reminds me very much of our local bookshop “The Bookman”. I visit there about once a month, or anytime I plan to increase my collection of books. I don’t buy a whole lot of them: I’m very picky, you know. 😉

    Hope you are well, friend.

    ~ C

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    • Oh, another dying breed, Cara! I am glad to know there are young people out there like you who need paper books! I only text if I have to and then ever so briefly – yes, no, etc. “The Bookman” sounds interesting for a quality reader like yourself. All ok here. Have a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. I love Archer City! I’ve been at least three times, but sadly, no McMurtry sighting! Is the Road Kill Cafe still there? We were going to stay at the hotel, but I think you have to reserve it in advance, as there was nothing but the proverbial tumbleweed in town that day. We did go to the cemetary, though, very interesting. Gotta love Texas! 🙂

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    • I have not had enough coffee this morning! I posted my reply to you to Susan Kelly instead. To repeat…This was my first visit and it was quiet there also. I did not see the Road Kill Cafe and we had lunch at some convenience store. We missed the cemetery but maybe next time. I love old cemeteries. Thanks for the like and comments!

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    • This was my first visit. I don’t remember seeing the Road Kill Cafe but there was not much going on that day. No Dairy Queen and we bought lunch at some little convenience store. I missed the cemetery but may next time. Thanks for the comments and likes!

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  5. This is a wonderful post. So well-written and illustrated. I loved it and I learned things about McMurtry that I didn’t know. Thank you, Jonel. Did I say that I love your background photograph?

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    • Thank you, George, I am glad that you liked it. He really is insteresting and has written quite a bit of non-fiction about his views and life as he ages. I think you did mention you liked the background photo. Thank you! My son took it with his cell phone as he was leaving after a visit. It was taken near the end of our street and you can see Corpus Christi in the backgrouond. I know you like your palms. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  6. What an interesting post – I learned a lot about Larry McMurtry! As for books, my mom has long used bookplates that are printed with her name and the following: “I treat my books as I do my friends, asking only that you treat them kindly and see them safely home.” Not sure where the quote originated, but ain’t it the truth!

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  7. I am a member of a profession that is rapidly changing. Librarians are a different breed from the bun-wearing, eyeglasses-sporting shushers in popular stereotypes–but even the most tech-savvy and tech-loving among us are devoted to the good old-fashioned book! Thank you for following by blog.

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  9. Pingback: Larry McMurtry auctions off books from his books stores, Booked Up Ink « THE COASTAL CRONE

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