McMurtry's Memoir Details Love of Books
Books: A Memoir
By Larry McMurtry
Simon & Schuster, 2008, $24
Are we book lovers a dying breed? Will be soon be as rare as unicorns?
I could say as long as there are readers, there will be books, but books read on a Kindle or heard on Audio books or an I-Pod aren't REAL books. Not the paper and print and glue kind of books I live with and love, have loved since the day my daddy read me "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" again and again.
Reading Larry McMurtry's "Books: A Memoir" was such joy and a shared passion. McMurtry grew up in Archer City, Texas, "an oil-patch town" of a thousand people. When he was six, a cousin, about to enter the army, gave him 19 volumes of boys' adventure stories. What a treasure.
My own childhood library was "Mary Poppins," "Heidi," "Black Beauty," "Little Women" and some assorted Nancy Drews. I read the covers off them!
Unlike McMurtry I never wanted to own a bookshop, but I did amass later a library of a few thousand books -- which is a treasure until you move. Then each book becomes a boxful that lifting and re-shelving doesn't do anything for your protesting back.
I'm now down to a few hundred hard choices and three rooms with built-in bookshelves.
McMurtry, best known as author of "The Last Picture Show," "Lonesome Dove" and 28 other novels, ended up buying and owning bookstores. He and a partner ran Booked Up in Washington, D.C., for 31 years before moving it out of the high rent district to Archer City, where it has grown to nearly 400,000 used, rare and collectible books.
"Books: A Memoir" is full of stories about book-owning, book-loving, book-buying and selling. McMurtry is first and last a story teller. He writes of the joys of discovery, finding the finds, the rare book, the few of a kind, first editions, autographed copies, scooping other book buyers and being scooped.
McMurtry writes in short chapters that make the book immensely readable.
He also admits that he's a rarity among "bookmen" in that he reads. Most bookmen don't. McMurtry was a reader first and book dealer last. He has never stopped reading.
I liked this book. It takes you into a behind the scenes in bookshops all over the country. And you meet some fascinating people.
Ruth Moose teaches creative writing at UNC Chapel Hill and is a longtime reviewer for The Pilot.
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