Thursday, July 31, 2008

Larry McMurtry's "Books: A Memoir"

You'll enjoy Larry McMurtry's brand new "Books: A Memoir" if: (a) you love books just because they're books; (b) collect (or accumulate) hundreds, even thousands, of them and have read, are reading or will read most; and (c) believe that the answer to everything is somewhere in a book and that you'll find it if you keep reading.

If you don't, you won't.

McMurtry, surely you remember, is a prolific writer ("The Last Picture Show," the Pulitzer-Prize-winning "Lonesome Dove"and 36 others if I counted right, plus two in partnership with Diana Ossana) and screenwriter (including Academy-Award-winning "Brokeback Mountain" with Ossana).

Less known to many of us is his lifelong career as a book seller and occasional scout, proprietor of a sprawling establishment in his hometown of Archer City, Texas, that offers some 400,000 used, rare and collectible volumes.

"Books" is not in-depth autobiography nor is it intended to be profound --- it's merely an account of how books have woven themselves into McMurtry's life told anecdotally in 109 brief chapters filling 259 pages (Simon & Schuster, hardcover list price $24).

But the "merely" is mighty entertaining, following McMurtry's life from its start in a Texas ranch house without books to proprietorship of one of the largest U.S. book stores.

There certainly is some thought-provoking speculation about the future of books and reading in the digital age, but many more entertaining insights into the great characters in book scouting, selling and collecting.

A good many funny anecdotes, too, including an account of an encounter with Janet Lee Auchincloss Morris (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's mother), paralyzed with horror when she realized that in attempting to sell the library of her late second husband, Hugh D. Auchinchloss, she might have to deal with common folks "in trade."

It's a good read however you do it --- in one gulp or more slowly; and a good addition to that pile of books dealing with books and the people who relish them.

1 comment:

Ed Abbey said...

I'll have to add this one to my list.