Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Last Book Store

Larry McMurtry, the author, wants to travel and go work on some other books, so he's announced he's temporarily closing his rare book business in Archer City, his hometown made infamous in The Last Picture Show.

McMurtry's business, All Booked Up, is the largest business enterprise in the North Texas town of 1,800 (located 25 miles south of Wichita Falls), so his decision is not welcome news in this bleak outpost on the plains.

Reports the LA Times:

"Larry's a hometown boy, but he never really fit back in," said Mary Webb, who grew up with McMurtry, is an owner of the Lonesome Dove Inn and remains friends with him. "This is the only thing in the world like this. And it will not be available to the public anymore. Not only will this have an impact on the community, but the book world as a whole. This is just a treasure."

In a telephone interview from Arizona, McMurtry said there were a number of factors in his decision.

Profits, he said, plummeted in the 1990s when two chain bookstores opened in Wichita Falls, which is 25 miles to the north and the closest city of any size.

Those kinds of stores increasingly sell large numbers of reprinted books, which means there are fewer classics not readily available. Large chain stores are also able to stock books and music, which draw a younger crowd.

"Our customers are all over 45," McMurtry said.

McMurtry's decision has already been in the media. What this story doesn't talk about is the writer's boredom with his hometown. He's said he has to drive to Fort Worth to get a decent meal in a restaurant that serves decent Scotch. I've spent more time in Archer City than I care to recall, and for reasons I won't go into, but I seriously doubt McMurtry will ever return on a long-term basis. You can't go home again, if home is Archer City. Correction: you can go home again if home is Archer City, it's just not something any rational human being would do.
The Royal Theater, Archer City, TX

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