As the New York Times reports it, Larry McMurtry’s big book auction last weekend attracted the appropriate collection of dreamers and hard-timers to remote Archer City, Texas. The crusty author of classics like Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment and Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen has always had a conflicted relationship with his home town, but I think most people would consider this 300,000 auction a gift, even if the locals couldn’t fathom all the fuss and bother.
Recently I traveled the Farm-to-Market roads up from Dallas to see the legendary bookstore (actually in 4 buildings) before the great sale. It is somehow restorative to know that there are places filled to the rafters with valuables far from the knowing crowds. McMurtry has been lamenting the passing of such places ever since he saw the death of the Last Picture Show (a haunting ruin now on the town square). But for all the lamentation, something authentic persists.
“It is somehow restorative to know that there are places filled to the rafters with valuables far from the knowing crowds”
3 of the bookstores were closed for cataloging when I got there and I thought I had missed my chance to see them. Before I found the main store (Booked Up #1) I wandered into the old County Jail, now the Archer County Museum. In that substantial, un-air-conditioned, frankly creepy, place Texas kitsch and treasures were scattered among open cells with peeling paint where drunks and punks used to languish. But there was substance and history among the ruins. Is it too much to say that America and Texas felt real in that place? Probably so. But there is so much unreality in the world today that it is good to know that a place like Archer City still exists.
I felt so real I went to the Wildcat Cafe off the town square and ate a Garlic and Steak. (That’s chicken-fried steak on garlic Texas Toast for the uninitiated.)
This post began as a comment on the Patheos blog site in response to Thomas Kidd’s reflections on the big event.