by Larry McMurtry
Brief memoir by a writer who is also known for his movies but his real passion was dealing in used books. Especially high end collectibles and rare editions. So of course he tells how he came to be a reader, and his love of books which any bibliophile would enjoy absorbing in these pages. However this volume felt a bit choppy to me, as he tells about part of his childhood, then where that led to or some related aspect of his adult life, then drops back into the chronological narrative again. Every other page nearly, as the chapters are mostly only one or two in length. It didn\’t bother me too much, though. I\’ve liked before many memoirs written by readers or writers, but this one is really about being a dealer. A book scout. Mingling with wealthy and monied people (they have the best private libraries) and what finds he had (or missed out on). How some copies resurfaced years later, or were re-bought and sold when you wouldn\’t expect them to be. Lots of titles I recognized fondly, and many many more I didn\’t (my reading tastes are not quite the same). Loads of name dropping which did nothing for me, but I skimmed through that, interested regardless. Plenty of interesting snippets of stories about curious customers or individuals met while seeking out fine book collections. He tells about when secondhand bookshops were thriving, and how he watched them slowly begin to decline in the seventies. This account wraps up just when online selling was becoming a thing, in fact the last chapter is a sort of obituary list of defunct bookshops- many of which he\’d acquired the complete stock when they went under. He also noted how computers are gradually taking over space in public libraries, saying though Book selling will never quite expire unless reading expires first… Civilization can probably adjust to the loss of the secondhand book trade, though I don\’t think it\’s really likely to have to. Can it, though, survive the loss of reading? That\’s a tougher question, but a very important one.
Aside from the bookishness, I also enjoyed reading about places- I\’ve lived briefly in San Francisco and Baltimore, and now am near Washington, D.C.- all locations McMurtry tells about thick with book dealing and bookshop visits. Made me want to visit more of them, before they disappear. (McMurtry says of D.C: What depressed me most in D.C. was that the various great houses I was invited to contained so few books.) !
I haven\’t read any of McMurtry\’s novels yet, but have wanted to try Lonesome Dove. Which he says he wrote as a western version of Gone with the Wind. Another one that\’s on my list!
My favorite quote: Very quickly…. I realized that reading was probably the cheapest and most stable pleasure of life. Sometimes books excite me, sometimes they sustain me, but rarely do they disappoint me- as books that is, if not necessarily the poetry, history, or fiction that they contain.
This amused and saddened me: I\’m proud of my carefully selected twenty-eight-thousand-volume library and am not joking when I say that I regard its formation as one of my most notable achievements. Yet, when I walk along the rows of bookshelves now, I feel that a distance has opened between me and my books.… I think sometimes that I\’m angry with my library because I know that I can\’t reread it all. I would like to, but the time is not there. It is this, I think, that produces the slight sense of alientation that I feel when I\’m together with my books now. They need to find other readers soon- ideally they will be my son and grandson, but if not them, other book lovers.
Rating: 3/5 259 pages, 2008