I didn’t make it to Archer City this past weekend for the massive book auction that took place as author Larry McMurtry unloaded his volumes on book lovers and collectors who had flocked from across the country to the little West Texas town made famous first as the setting of McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, and then once more as the home of McMurtry’s renowned collection of book stores. I was supposed to ride out last Thursday for a BBQ and preview with Brandon Kennedy, who, you may remember, penned this article this past April about McMurtry, his collection, and his bookstores. Alas, Kennedy set out solo (leaving more room in the car for books, of course), and returned with this dispatch over on Fine Books and Collections about what proved a difficult trip:
As the familiar images flickered past, thoughts of the screening as a bookend for a celebratory yet difficult weekend for Larry McMurtry and his guests entered my mind. I imagined three of the four buildings empty, the perplexed townspeople and their relationship with the author, and all the complexities within his own work and its perception out in the world.
Not that I hadn’t come without my own baggage as well. I had been a seasonal regular at Booked Up for well over ten years, and I was disheartened to see the entirety of the stock broken up, though I could certainly understand McMurtry’s reasons for doing so. I had simply grown accustomed to my habits and thoughts about and within the shop, looking forward to future trips and reflecting back on good finds, and frankly, I was a little torn-up about the whole darn thing.
Kennedy didn’t get into the bidding, and he didn’t score this gem, a “1,139-page ledger full of original manuscript erotic stories commissioned by a wealthy Oklahoma oilman with an apparent daily appetite for the sordid.” Still, the hope, bittersweet, of course, is that this great expulsion of volumes has some effect, that the books whose sale marks the death of Archer City’s bookstores will somehow reemerge and resurrection the spirit of the place somewhere else:
Where there once had been a notable absence of books but plenty of space, the sudden release of hundreds of thousands of volumes that had taken years to assemble has created rivulets of books, ideas, and people. We can now only hope for tide pools to gather elsewhere.
Go read the whole thing.