When Larry McMurtry began writing his memoirs, the first volume of which was published in 2008, he saw it necessary to divide his life into three distinct sections: Books, Literary Life, and Hollywood.
It is no coincidence that Books, the recounting of his life as a "rare bookman," came first, though that might surprise fans of the writer's fiction. Not only did he write an autobiography of the 41-year love affair he's shared with his collection -- and the pursuit of it -- but also Cadillac Jack in 1982, a semi-autobiographical tale of a flea market cowboy, inspired by McMurtry's own experiences digging through the heaps of other men's junk for rare jewels.
McMurtry is one of us, the last few dinosaurs who still line our walls in bound pages and endless shelves. In fact, we might even call him the king dinosaur, Ex Libris Rex. For people like us, the way you stack them and shelve them, the ways the colors match or clash and the fonts juxtapose, is as close to creating "visual art" as we may ever come. But don't think for a moment that it doesn't come from a similarly romantic place. Don't think we have installed them without forethought or intentionality, without hoping new lovers or old friends will notice and thereby notice something significant about us.
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But there is something even more lovely than amassing a great collection for one's private appreciation, and McMurtry has decided to send large sweeping portions of his back out into the atmosphere. On Friday and Saturday, his Archer City bookstore, Booked Up, is selling "hundreds of thousands of books by the shelf lot."
As only he can, McMurtry writes:
The several hundred thousand books that we are putting in play constitute a kind of anthology of American bookshops past. In our forty-one years as booksellers we have bought twenty six bookshops and some two hundred personal libraries, some humble, some grand.
So why push them out?
Because we believe that in the book world migration is healthy: old pages await new eyes. Yesterday in Lubbock, Texas I found a copy of Sons and Lovers in the oil-cloth Modern Library with my bookplate in it. Twenty eight thousand volumes have my bookplate in them; they reside in my big house in Archer City, and yet this one strayed. How it got to Lubbock I'll likely never know. It's home again now; but hundreds of thousands of its cousins will be flooding into the great river of books that delights and refreshes. Good reading and good luck!
To own a piece of the Rare Bookman's beloved trove, call 478-787-2665 or visit addisonsauction.com.