August 18, 2010

McMurtry's Books

Oh how I love to read about things bookish, such as Books by Larry McMurtry. His shop in Texas contains some 400,000 volumes, which is my library multiplied by a couple hundred. I can't imagine having two hundred books for every book I have now...

Read rapturously of McMurtry's stray thoughts and wished he was a believer. He may be my latest favorite author, at least based on how quickly I snapped up his Walker Benjamin at the Dairy Queen quasi-autobiography after finishing Books. Just $5.00. A steal, and acquired after my other steal, a $4.75 copy of his literary memoirs. Between his fiction (the expansive "Lonesome Dove") and his memoir-ish non-fiction, I'm pretty well stocked. I can't even get too upset about what looks like an obvious way to pad a book: pen 80 chapters, some only a page long and the longest about four. Sometimes he broke for a new chapter where others might not start a new paragraph. I guess he's got a lot of sway with his editor/publisher.

He writes vivid little portraits with few words. Of the American aristocrat/diplomat David Bruce he writes that Bruce shouldn't have had his WWII diaries published because it painted his estrangement from the war and humans. It made me want to look up the diaries just to see if what he saw came through to me too.

McMurtry's love of books comes through in spades, as does his love of re-reading. The only thing he could read during his year and a half depression was the twelve-volume set of the diaries of James Lees-Milne. There's something satisfying obscure in that. I sense McMurtry may be the middle-brow equivalent to Shelby Foote, who read all of Proust nine times. I love the idea that someone getting on in years would not suffer from the sickness of wanting to read everything but content to re-read particular personal treasures. There is something romantic, I think, in re-reading something so many times.

I also bought, on his recommendation, what is sometimes touted as the greatest travel book of all-time, "Arabian Sands". I was hypmotized by the early lines in it, similar in tone to Karen Blixon's "Out of Africa" opening. I was transfixed by the author's (masochistic?) love of the desert, despite the surreal hardships he encountered. I'm fascinated by those who say 'Yes' to the Cross, even crosses of their own making.

I googled for info about his grand bookstore down there in Middle-Of-Nowhere, Texas and dreamed of visiting someday. He still lives in his hometown of ranchers and rural folk even though the author of a column on him said he doesn't really fit in. But then given the eccentricities of most authors that's hardly surprising.

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